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LAKE NEWS A NOVEL Barbara Delinsky Simon and Schuster m m M r»W

TTTT' •K ,/•? 1 SIMON & SCHUSTER ,; ^ Rockefeller Center 1230 Avenue of the Americas New York, NY 10020 This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. Copyright © 1999 by Barbara Delinsky All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Simon & Schuster and colophon are registered trademarks of Simon & Schuster Inc. Designed byjeanette Olender Manufactured in the United States of America 13579 10 8642 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available. ISBN 0-684-86432-0 Frontispiece "Great Northern Diver or Loon," from Auduboris America: The Narratives and Experiences of John James Audubon. Donald Culross Peattie, ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1940. \ H I ! H ; ; *"3 ft '< f. *

Acknowledgments So many people to thank. Where to begin? It started with a double billshopping for a lake house and researching a book. I succeeded on both counts, thanks to the warmth and generosity of people like Chip and Tina Maxfield, Susan Francesco, and Sid Lovett-and to Doug and Liz Hentz, who've made it such fun! My sister, Helen Dempsey, was a tireless resource when it came to all things Catholic, for which I thank her from the bottom of my heart. If I've taken literary license and made mistakes, the fault is solely mine. For newspaper information, I am indebted to Maria Buckley and Ron Duce of the Needham TAB. For apple-cider-making information, I thank Julie, Andrew, and Jo of Honey Pot Hill Orchards. For miscellaneous other bits and snatches, I thank Martha Raddatz, Barbara Rosenberger, and Phyllis Tickle. I also owe a well of gratitude to Robin Mays, who passed away shortly after I finished writing this book. She's watching us, though. I know she is. Robin, the birdhouses are yours! As always, my agent, Amy Berkower, and her assistant, Jodi Reamer, were there for me, as was my own assistant, Wendy Page. To my editors, Michael Korda and Chuck Adams, I offer heartfelt thanks and future promise. I dedicate Lake News to my husband, Steve, who really got into the plotting of this one, and to our kids, always a boundless source of prideEric and Jodi, Andrew, and Jeremy and Sherrie. Finally, to Ellyn's Lily, here it is!


Nothing so fair, so pure, and at the same time so large, as a lake, perchance, lies on the surface of the earth. Sky water. It needs no fence. Nations come and go without defiling it. It is a mirror which no stone can crack, whose quicksilver will never wear off, whose gilding nature continually repairs; no storms, no dust, can dim its surface ever fresh;-a mirror in which all impurity presented to it sinks, swept and dusted by the sun's hazy brush,-this the light dust-cloth,-which retains no breath that is breathed on it, but sends its own to float as clouds high above its surface, and be reflected in its bosom still. from Walden, by Henry David Thoreau


CHAPTER! l"b Lake Henry, New Hampshire ^Iffî Like everything else at the lake, dawn arrived in its own good time. The flat black of night slowly deepened to a midnight blue that lightened in lazy steps, gradually giving form to the spike of a tree, the eave of a cottage, the tongue of a weathered wood dock-and that was on a clear day. On this day, fog slowed the process of delineation, reducing the lake to a pool of milky glass and the shoreline to a hazy wash of orange, gold, and green where, normally, vibrant fall colors would be. A glimpse of cranberry or navy marked a lakefront home, but details were lost in the mist. Likewise the separation of reflection and shore. The effect, with the air quiet and still, was that of a protective cocoon. It was a special moment. The only thing John Kipling would change about it was the cold. He wasn't ready for summer to end, but despite his wishes, the days were noticeably shorter than they had been two months before. The sun set sooner and rose later, and the chill of the night lingered. He felt it. His loons felt it. The foursome he watched, two adults and their young, would remain on the lake for another five weeks, but they were growing restless, looking to the sky lately in ways that had less to do with predators than with thoughts of migration. As he watched now, they floated in the fog not twenty feet from his canoe, not ten feet again from the tiny fir-covered island in whose sheltered cove they had summered. The island was one of many that dotted Lake Henry. Between the clarity of the water, the quiet of the lake, and the abundance of small fish, those islands lured the loons back year after year-because they didn't do well on land. Their feet were set too far

Barbara Delinsky 14 back under large, cumbersome bodies. So they built nests on the very edge of these islands, where they could more easily enter and leave the water. John found it painful watching them lurch even those precious few inches from water to nest. In all other respects, though, the loons were a sight to behold. Since the chicks' birth, in July, he had watched their plumage go from baby black to toddler brown to a rather drab juvenile gray, but they had their parents' tapered beaks and sleek necks, and a promise of future brilliance-and those parents, ahhhh, those parents were brilliant indeed, even in fall, with their plumage starting to dull, even this morning, through the veil of an ashy mist. They were beauties, with crisp checkerboards of white-on-black backs, white-stripe necklaces around black necks, solid black heads, distinctive pointed beaks. As if that weren't impressive enough, they had riveting round red eyes. John had heard that the red enhanced underwater vision, and he could believe it. Those eyes didn't miss much. The birds lay low in the water now, swimming gently around the cove, alternately rolling and contorting to groom themselves and submerging their heads to troll for fish. When one of the adults compressed its body and dove, a webbed power propelled it deep. John knew it might fill its belly with up to fifteen minnows before resurfacing a distance away. He searched the fog until he spotted it again. Its mate continued to float near the island, but both adults were alert, those pointed bills tipped just a little higher as they scoured the fog for news. Later that morning they would leave their young, run laboriously across the surface of the lake, and lumber up into the air. After circling a time or two until they gained altitude enough to clear the trees, they would fly to a neighboring lake to visit other loons. Breeding was a solitary time, and with two fledglings to show for months of vigilance and work, this pair had done well. Now they had to refresh their social skills in preparation for wintering in larger groups on the warmer Atlantic coast. For an eon, loons had repeated this ritual. The same intelligence that had assured their survival for so long told the current crop of birds that September was halfway done, October would bring colder days and evening frost, and November would bring ice. Since they needed an expanse of clear water for takeoff, they had to leave the lake before it froze.

LAKE NEWS 1S And they would. In all his years growing up on the lake, then returning as an adult to watch again, John hadn't seen many icebound loons. Their instincts were good. They rarely erred. John, however, erred-and often. Hadn't he done it again this morning, setting out in a T-shirt and shorts, wanting it to be summer still and finding himself butt cold now? He sometimes had trouble accepting that he wasn't twenty anymore. He was over forty-and, yes, still six three and fit, but his body didn't work the way it once did. It ached around the knees, wrinkled around the eyes, receded at the temples, and chilled in the extremities. But cold or not, he wasn't leaving. Not yet. There might not necessarily be the makings of a big best-seller in it, but he hadn't had his fill of the loons. He sat rock still in the canoe with his hands in his armpits for warmth and his paddle stowed. These loons were used to his presence, but he took nothing for granted. As long as he kept his distance and respected their space, they would reward him with preening and singing. When the world was eerily quiet-at night, at dawn, on mornings like this when the fog muffled other noise that life on the lake might make--the loons' song shimmered and rose. And it came now-breathtaking-a primitive tremolo released with the shiver of a jaw, so beautiful, so mysterious, so wild that it raised the hair on the back of his neck. It also carried a message. The tremolo was a cry of alarm. Granted, this one was low in pitch, which made it only a warning, but he wasn't about to ignore it. With the faintest rasp of wood on fiberglass, he lifted his paddle. Water lapped softly against the canoe as he guided it backward. When he was ten more feet away, he stabilized his position and quietly restowed the paddle. Hugging his elbows to his thighs for warmth, he sat, watched, listened, waited. In time, the loon closest to him stretched his neck forward and issued a long, low wail. The sound wasn't unlike the cry of a coyote, but John would never confuse the two. The loon's wail was at the same time more elemental and more delicate. This one was the start of a dialogue, one adult calling the other in a succession of haunting sounds that brought the distant bird gliding closer. Even when they were ten feet apart, they continued to speak, with

Barbara Delinsky i6 their beaks nearly shut and their elongated throats swelling around the sound. Goose bumps rose on his skin. This was why he had returned to the lake-why, after swearing off New Hampshire at fifteen, he had reversed himself at forty. Some said he'd done it for the job, others that he'd done it for his father, but the roundabout truth had to do with these birds. They signified something primal and wild, but simple, straightforward, and safe. A loons life consisted of eating, grooming, and procreating. It was an honest life, devoid of pretense, ambition, and cruelty. The loon harmed others only when its own existence was threatened. John found that totally refreshing. So he stayed longer, though he knew he should leave. It was Monday. Lake News had to be at the printer by noon on Wednesday. He already had material from his staff correspondents, one per town. Assuming that the appropriate bins held articles promised by local movers and shakers-"movers and shakers" being a relative term-he would have a wad of reading and editing, keystroking, cutting and pasting. If those articles weren't in the bins, he would call around Lake Henry and the four neighboring towns serviced by the paper, take information on the phone, and write what he could himself-and if he still ended up with dead space, he would run more Thoreau. There wasn't a book in that either, he told himself. A book had to be original. He had notebooks filled with ideas, folders thick with anecdotes J*e had collected since returning to town, but nothing sparked an urge to hustle-at least, not when it came to writing a book. He did hustle when it came to Lake News-but mostly between noon Tuesdays and noon Wednesdays. He was a last-minute kind of guy. He wrote better under the threat of a deadline closing in, liked the rush of a newsroom filled with action and noise, liked the perversion of keeping the managing editor on edge. Of course, he was the managing editor now. And the production editor. And the photography editor, the society editor, the layout editor. Lake News wasn't the Boston Post. Not by a long shot, and there were times when that bothered him. ; This, however, wasn't one.

*_ I \J V> fI LAKE NEWS 17 His paddle remained stowed, and the loons continued to call. Then came a pause, and John dared mimic the sound. One of the loons said something in return, and in that brief, heady instant, he felt part of the team. In the next instant, with a resumption of the birds' duet, he was excluded again, a species apart. But not cold. He realized he was no longer cold. The fog was burning off under a brightening sun. By the time patches of blue showed through the mist, John guessed it was nearly nine. He straightened his legs and, easing back, braced his elbows on the gunwales. Turning his face to the sun, he closed his eyes, took a contented breath, and listened to silence, water, and loon. After a time, when the sun began to heat his eyelids and the weight of responsibility grew too heavy to ignore, he pushed himself up. For a few last minutes he continued to watch and absorb the whatever-it-was that these birds gave him. Then smoothly and silently, if reluctantly, he retrieved his paddle from the floorboards and headed home. The beauty of a beard was that it eliminated the need to shave. John kept his cropped close, which meant occasional touch-ups, but none of the daily scrape-and-bleed agony that he used to endure. Same thing with a necktie. No need for one here. Or for a pressed shirt. Or for anything but denim down below. He didn't even have to worry about matching socks, since it was either bare feet and Birks in summer or work boots in winter, and then he could wear whatever socks he wanted and no one would see. He still felt the novelty of showering, dressing, and hitting the road in ten minutes flat, and what a road. No traffic. No other cars. No horns. No cops. No speed limit. The road he drove now was framed by trees just shy of their peak of fall color. It wove in and out in a rough tracing of the lake and was cracked by years of frost heaves. Most other roads in town were the same. They imposed speed limits all on their own, and Lake Henry liked it that way. The town didn't cater to tourists as many of the surrounding lake towns did. There was no inn. There were no chic little shops. Despite a perennial brouhaha in the state legislature, there was no public access to the shore. Anyone who went out on the lake was either a resident, a friend of a resident, or a trespasser. At that particular moment in time, with summer residents gone and

Barbara Dellnsky I8 only year-rounders left, the town's population was 1,721. Eleven babies were due, which would raise the count. Twelve citizens were terminally old or terminally ill, which would lower it. There were twenty-eight kids currently in college. Whether they would return was a toss-up. In John's day they left and never came back, but that was starting to change. He made what he intended to be a brief stop at the general store, but got to talking national politics with Charlie Owens, who owned the store; and then Charlie's wife, Annette, told him that Stu and Amanda Watson's college junior, Hillary, was home for a quick day after a lastminute decision to spend the semester abroad. Since Hillary had interned for John two summers before, he had a personal stake in her success, so he detoured to her house to get the story, take her picture, and wish her luck. Back in the center of town, he turned in at the post office and continued on to the thin yellow Victorian that stood between it and the lake. Climbing from the truck-a Chevy Tahoe, one of the perks of the jobhe reached across the seat for his briefcase, shouldered its strap, and scooped up the day's editions of four different newspapers, a bag of doughnuts, and his thermos. With the bag clutched in his teeth he sifted through his key ring as he crossed the dirt drive to the Victorian's side door. He was still sifting when he shouldered open the screen. The door behind it was mahogany, highly varnished, and carved by a local artist. Between swirls on its bottom half were a dozen slots identified by small «brass plaques. The first row, politely, was devoted to the neighboring towns-Ashcroft, Hedgeton, Cotter Cove, and Center Sayfield. The lower rows were Lake Henry-specific, with slots assigned to things like Police and Fire, Congregational Church, Textile Mill, and Garden Club. Eye-high on the door, with no slot attached, was the largest plaque. Lake News, it read. The door moved even before John inserted his key. As he elbowed it the rest of the way open, the phone began to ring. "Jenny?" he called. "Jenny?" "In the bathroom!" came the muted yell. Nothing new there, he thought. But at least she had come. Tossing his keys on the kitchen table in passing, he took the stairs two

LAKE NEWS i9 at a time, past the second floor and on up to the third. There were no dividing walls up here, which made it the largest room in the house. The addition of a slew of windows and skylights also made it the brightest. Most important, it was the only one with a view of the lake. That view wasn't nearly as good as the one from John's house, but it was better than no view at all, which was what the lower rooms in the Victorian offered. Three willows, arm in arm and more fat than tall, saw to that. The attic room had been his office since he had returned to town, three years before. It was large enough to house the newspaper's sales department, the production department, and the editorial department. Each had a desk and a view of the lake. That view kept John focused and sane. The phone continued to ring. Letting the papers slip to the editorial desk, he dropped the bag from Charlie's on top, stood the thermos nearby, and opened the window wide. The lake air was clear now. Sun spilled down the slopes of the east hills, setting fire to foliage in its path before running out over the water. A month before, it would have hit a dozen boats captained by summer folk who were grabbing precious last minutes on the lake before closing up camp for the year. The only boat on the water today was one of Marlon Dewey's prized Chris-Crafts. The sun bounced off its polished oak deck and glittered in the wake spreading behind. He picked up the phone. "Morning, Armand." "Took you long enough," his publisher said in a rusty voice. "Where you been?" John followed the course of the handsome Chris-Craft. Marlon was at the helm, along with two visiting grandchildren. "Oh, out and around." The old man's voice softened. " 'Oh, out and around.' You give me that every time, John, and you know I can't argue with it. Damn lake has too many bends, so I can't see what goes on around yours. But the paper's my bottom line, and you're doing that okay. Long as it keeps up, you can sleep as late as you want. Did you get my piece? Liddie put it in the slot." "It's there," John said without checking, because Armand Bayne's wife was totally reliable. She was also totally devoted to her husband. What Armand wanted done, she did. "What else you got?" the old man asked.

Barbara Delinsky 20 John clamped the phone between shoulder and ear and pulled a handful of papers from the briefcase. He had dummied the week's pages at home the night before. Now he spread out the sheets. "The lead is a report on the education bill that's up before the state legislature. It's a thirty-inch piece, across the top and down the right-hand leg, photo lower left. I'm following it with opinion pieces, one from the local rep, one from the principal at Cooper Elementary." "What's your editorial say about it?" "You know what it says." "The na-tives won't like it." "Maybe not, but we either put money into schools today or into welfare tomorrow. "The source of that money was the problem. Not wanting to argue it again with Armand, who was one of the wealthiest of the landowners and would be soaked if property taxes doubled, he pulled up the next dummy. "Page three leads with a report on Chris Diehl's trialclosing arguments, jury out, verdict in, Chris home. I have a piece on profit sharing at the mill, and one on staff cutbacks at the retirement home. The newcomer profile is on Thomas Hook." "Can't stand the guy," Armand muttered. John uncapped the thermos. "That's because he has no people skills, but he has computer skills. There's reason why his business is worth twenty million and growing." "He's a kid. " Spoken indignantly. "What's he gonna do with that kind of money?" John filled his mug with coffee. "He's thirty-two, with a wife and three kids, and in the six months he's been here, he's tripled the size of his house, regraded and graveled the approach road, built another house for an office in the place where a god-awful eyesore stood, and in doing all that, he's used local contractors, carpenters, masons, plumbers, and electricians-" "All right, all right," Armand's growl cut him off. "What else?" Sipping coffee, John pulled up the next page. "There's an academy update-message from the head of the school. New year starting, one hundred twelve kids, twenty-two states, seven countries. Then there's police news, fire news, library news." He flipped open the Wall Street Journal and absently scanned the headlines. "There's the week in review from pa-

LAKE NEWS pers in Boston, New York, and Washington. And ads, lots of ads this week"-he knew Armand would like that-"including a two-pager from the outlets in Conway. Fall's a good time for ads." "Praised be," said Armand. "What else?" "School news. Historical Society news. Tri-town soccer news." "Want some breaking news?" John always wanted breaking news. It was one of the city things he missed most. Feeling a twinge of anticipation, he sank into his desk chair, brought up a blank screen, and prepared to type. Armand said, "They just read Noah Thacken's will, and the family's in a stew. He left the house to daughter number two, so daughter number one is threatening to sue, and daughter number three is threatening to leave town, and none of them is talking to the others. Look into it, John." But John had retracted his hands and was rocking back in his chair. "That's private stuff." "Private? The whole town'll know by the end of the day." : -. "Right, so why put it in the paper? Besides, we print facts." "This is facts. That will is a matter of public record." "The will is. Not the personal trauma. That's speculation, and it's exploitative. I thought we agreed-" "Well, there isn't a hell of a lot of other excitement up here," the old man remarked and hung up the phone. No, John thought, there isn't a hell of a lot of other excitement up here. No fascinating book material in an education bill, a computer mogul, or a family squabble; and Christopher Diehl's bank fraud trial was a far cry from the murder trials he used to cover. His eye went to the wall of framed photos at the far end of the room. There was one of him interviewing a source on Boston's City Hall Plaza, and another of him typing at his computer with the phone clamped to his ear in a roomful of other reporters doing the same. There were photos of him shaking hands with national politicians, and of him laughing it up with colleagues in Boston bars. There was one of a Christmas party-he and Marley in the newsroom with a crowd of their friends. And there was a blowup of his Post ID mug shot. His hair was short, his jaw tight, his eyes tired, his face pale. He looked like he was either about to miss the story of his career or severely constipated.

Barbara Delinsky 22 The photos were trappings of an earlier life, like the deactivated police scanner that sat on a file cabinet beneath them. Listening to police or fire reports had been a way of life once. No bona fide newsroom was without one. So he had started his tenure at Lake News by setting one up, but static without voices for hours on end had grown old fast. Besides, he personally knew everyone who would be involved in breaking news. If anything happened, they called him, and if he wasn't at his phone, Poppy Blake knew where he was. She was his answering service. She was the answering service for half the town. If she didn't find him one place, she found him somewhere else. In three years, he hadn't missed a local emergency. How many had there been . . . two . . . three .. . four? Nope, no big best-seller would ever come from covering emergencies in Lake Henry. With a sigh he dropped the phone into its cradle, pulled a doughnut from the bag, added more coffee to his mug, and tipped back his chair. He had barely crossed his feet on the desk when Jenny Blodgett appeared at the door. She was nineteen, pale and blond, and so thin that the big bulge of the baby in her belly looked doubly wrong. Knowing that she probably hadn't eaten breakfast, he rocked forward in the chair, came to his feet, and brought her the bag. "It isn't milk or meat, but it's better than nothing," he said, gesturing her around and back down the stairs. Her office was on the first floor, in the room that had once been a parlor. He followed her there, eyed the patopers on the desk, thought he detected what may have been separate piles. "How's it going?" Her voice was soft and childlike. "Okay." She pointed to each of those vague piles in turn. "This year's letters to the editor. Last year's. The year before's. What do I do now?" He had told her twice. But she worked sporadic hours, hadn't been in since the Wednesday before, and had probably lived a nightmare since then-or so the rationale went. She wasn't exactly competent, had barely made it through high school, and was trained for nothing. But she was carrying his cousin's child. He wanted to give her a^break. So, gently, he said, "Put them in alphabetical order and file them in the cabinet. Did you type out labels for the files?" , ,(,

LAKE NEWS 23 Her eyes went wide. They were red rimmed, which meant she had either been up all night or crying this morning. "I forgot," she whispered. "No problem. You can do it now. What say we set a goal? Labels typed and stuck on file folders, and letters filed in the appropriate folders before you leave today. Sound fair?" She nodded quickly. "Eat first," he reminded her on his way out the door and went to the kitchen to collect the contents of the bins. Up in his office again, he ate his doughnut at the window overlooking the lake. The Woody had disappeared and its wake been played out, but the water had lost its smoothness. A small breeze ruffled it in shifting patches. Beneath his window the willows whispered and swayed. Shoving up the screen, he ducked his head and leaned out. Corned beef hash was frying at Charlie's. The breeze brought the smell across the street and down to the water. On his left, half a dozen old men fished from the end of the town pier, which jutted from a narrow swath of sandy beach. On his right, yellow-leafed birches angled out over low shrubs that led to rocks and then water. There were houses farther on, yearround homes too stately to be called camps, but most were tucked into coves, hidden around bends, or blocked from view by islands. He could see the tips of a few docks, even a weathered raft still anchored to the floor of the lake. It would be hauled in soon, and the docks taken apart and stored. The lake would be bare. The phone rang. Letting the screen drop, he waited to see if Jenny would answer it. After three rings, he did it himself. "Lake News. " "John, this is Allison Quimby," said a bold voice. "My place is falling apart. I need a handyman. Everyone I've used before is still working up at Hook's. Is it too late to put in an ad?" "No, but you want the sales desk. I'll transfer you." He put her on hold, jogged across the room, and picked up the phone at the sales desk. "Okay." He slipped into the chair there and began at the computer. "I'm pulling up classified ads. Here we go. Do you have something written?" He suspected she did. Allison Quimby owned the local realty company and was the quintessential professional. Of course she had something written. "Of course I have something written."

Barbara Delinsky 24 She read. He typed. He fiddled with the spacing, helped her edit it to make it work better, suggested a heading, quoted her a price, took her credit card number. As soon as he hung up the phone, he made a call of his own. A tired voice answered. "Yeah." "It's me. Allison Quimby needs a handyman. Give her a call?" When he heard a soft swearing, he said, "You're sober, Buck, and you need the work." "Who are you, my fuckin' guardian angel?" John kept his voice low and tight. "I'm your fuckin' older cousin, the one who's worried about the girl you knocked up, the one who's thinking you may not be worth the effort but that girl and her baby are. Come on, Buck. You're good with your hands, you can do what Allison needs done, she pays well, and she's got a big mouth if she likes what you do." He read the phone number once, then read it again. "Call her," he said and hung up the phone. Seconds later he was back at the window by the editorial desk. Seconds after that he had a grip on his patience. All it took was a good long look at the lake and the reminder that people like Buck and Jenny didn't have that. They had the Ridge, where houses were too small, too close, and too dirty to uplift anyone, much less someone battling alcoholism, physical abuse, or chronic unemployment. John knew. He had the Ridge in his blood as well. He would hear it, feel it, smell it until the day he died. A movement on the lake caught his eye, the flash of red on a distant dock. He focused in on it; then, half smiling, took a pair of binoculars from the bottom drawer of the desk and focused through those. Shelly Cole was stretched out on a lounge chair, all sleek and oiled in the sun. She was a well-made woman, he had to say that. But then, Cole women had been sorely tempting the men of Lake Henry for three generations. For the most part they were kind creatures who grew into fine wives and mothers. Shelly was something else. She was heading back to Florida in a week, when the weather here became too cool for her to flaunt her tan. John wouldn't miss her. He might be as tempted as any man around, but he wasn't touching her with a ten-foot pole. With a slight shift of the binoculars, he was looking at Hunter's Isr

LAKE NEWS 25 land. Named after its first owners, rather than any sport there, it was another of the tiny islands that dotted the lake, and it did have a house, albeit a seasonal one. The Hunter family had summered there for more than a century, before selling it to its current owners. Those owners, the LaDucs, were teaching their third generation of children to swim from its small pebbled beach. Strange family, the LaDucs. There were nearly as many scandals woven through its generations as there were Hunter scandals. Growing up, John had heard rumors about both families. Returning as an adult who knew how to snoop, he had done research, asked around, made notes. They were locked in his file cabinet now, along with the rest of his private stuff, but none were crying out to be a book. Maybe he hadn't read them in the right frame of mind. Maybe he needed to reread them. Or organize them. Or chronologize them. Maybe something would hit him. After three years he should have come up with something. The phone rang. He picked it up after the first ring. "Lake News. " "Hi, Kip. It's Poppy." John grinned. How not to, when conjuring up Poppy Blake? She was a smiling pixie, always bright and upbeat. "Hi, sweetheart. How's it going?" "Busy," she said, making it sound wonderful. "I have someone named Terry Sullivan on the line to your house. Do you want me to patch him through?" John's eye flew to the wall of photographs, to one of the prints in which he was partying with other reporters. Terry Sullivan was the tall, lean, dark one, the one with the mustache that hid a sneer, the one who always stood on the edge of the crowd so that he could beat the rest out if a story broke. He was competitive to the extreme, self-centered to a fault, and wouldn't know loyalty if it hit him in the face. He had personally betrayed John, and more than once. John wondered where he found the gall to call. Terry Sullivan had been one of the first to blow him off when he decided to leave Boston. Curious, he told Poppy to make the connection. When it happened, he said, "Kipling here." "Hey, Kip. It's Terry Sullivan. How goes it, bro?" Bro? John took his time answering. "It goes fine. And you?" I'll

Barbara Delinsky 26 "Aaah, same old rat race here, you know how it is. Well, you used to. It must be pretty quiet up there. There are times when I think I'll retire to the sticks, then I think again. It isn't me, if you know what I mean." "I sure do. People up here are honest. You'd stick out like a sore thumb." There was a pause, then a snort. "That was blunt." "People up here are blunt, too. So, what do you want, Terry? I don't have long. We have deadlines here, too." "O-kay. Chuck the small talk. I'm calling journalist to journalist. There's a woman named Lily Blake, born there, living here. Tell me all you know." John slipped into his chair. Lily was Poppy's sister, the elder, but barely, which would make her thirty-fourish. She had left Lake Henry to go to college and had stayed in the city for a graduate degree. In music, he thought. He had heard she was teaching. And that she played the piano. And that she had a great body. Folks around town still talked about her voice. She had been singing in church when she was five, but John wasn't a churchgoer, and long before she would have been old enough to sing at Charlie s back room Thursday nights, he had left town. She had been back several times since he had returned-once for her father's funeral, other times for Thanksgiving or Christmas, but never for longer than a day or two. From what he heard, she and her mother didn't get along. John might not know Lily, but he did know Maida. She was one tough lady. For that reason and others, he was inclined to give Lily "the benefit of the doubt when it came to who was at fault. • "Lily Blake?" he asked Terry, sounding vague. •( "Come on, Kip. The place is tiny. Don't go dumb on me." ' If she doesn't live here, how in the hell am I supposed to know about her?" "Fine. Tell me about her family. Who's alive and who isn't? What do they do? What kind of people are they?" , "Why do you Want to know?" 1 met her. I am thinking of dating her. I want to know what I'm getting into." Thinking of dating her? Fat chance. Lily Blake was a stutterer-much improved from childhood, he understood, but Terry Sullivan didn't

LAKE NEWS 27 date women with problems. They demanded more than he wanted to give. "Is this part of some story?" John asked, though he couldn't imagine what part Lily could play in a story that interested Terry. "Nah. Purely personal." "And you're calling me?"They might have been coËeagues, but they'd never been friends. Terry missed the point. Chuckling, he said, "Yeah, I thought it was pretty funny, myself. I mean, here she comes from this tiny town in the middle of nowhere, and it just happens to be the same place where you're hiding out." "Not hiding. I'm totally visible." "It was a figure of speech. Are we touchy?" "No, Terry, we're pressed for time. Tell me why you really want to know about Lily Blake, or hang up the goddamned phone." ' -; "Okay. It's not me. It's my friend. He's the one who wants to date her." John knew a lie when he heard one. He hung up the phone, but his hand didn't leave the receiver. Waiting only long enough to sever the connection with Terry, he snatched it back up and signaled for Poppy. "Hey, Kip," she said seconds later in her sassy, smiling voice. "That was fast. What can I do for you now?" "Two things," John said. He was on his feet, one hand holding the phone to his ear, the other cocked on his hip. "First, don't let that man speak to anyone in town. Cut him off, drop the line, do whatever you have to. He's not a good person. Second, tell me about your sister." "About Rose?" "About Lily. What's she been doing with her life?"

CHAPTER 2 Boston, Massachusetts n ft -J^= In the weeks to come, when Lily Blake was trying to understand rP* why she had been singled out for scandal, she would remember the soggy mess she had made of the Boston Post that rainy Monday afternoon and wonder if an angry newspaper deity had put a curse on her as punishment for her disrespect. At the time, she simply wanted to stay dry. She had waited as long as she could at the foot of Beacon Hill, under the high stone arch of the small private school where she taught, thinking that the rain would let up in a minute or two, but it fell steadily in cool sheets, and those minutes added up. She couldn't wait forever. She was due to play at the club at six-thirty, and had to get home and change. " 'Bye, Ms. Blake!" called another of the students who passed her, dashing from the shelter of the school to a waiting car. She smiled and raised a hand to wave, but the student was already gone. "So much for Indian summer," muttered Peter Oliver, coming up from behind. A history teacher, he was tall, blond, and worshiped by nearly every female in the upper school. He scowled at the sky. "We're fools, is what we are, you and me. Dedicated fools. If we worked the kinds of days most teachers did, we'd have left two hours ago. It was sunny then." He grunted and glanced at Lily. "Where ya headed?" "Home." "Want to catch a drink first?" She smiled and shook her head. "I have to work." "You always have to work. What fun's that?" He opened his umbrella.

LAKE NEWS 2p "Ciao." Trotting down the steps, he set off down the street, looking perfectly dry and content. Lily envied him the umbrella. It occurred to her that she should have accepted his invitation, if only to have cover for some of the walk home, not to mention the possibility that the rain might stop in the time it took for a drink. But she didn't drink, for one thing, and for another, she didn't do Peter. He might look terrific in his deep blue shirt and khaki shorts, but he knew it. Peter loved Peter. Lily had to listen to his stories in the faculty lounge. His self-absorption grew tiring. Besides, she really didn't have time. Pulling the Post from her briefcase, she opened it over her head and ran down the steps into the rain. She hurried along the narrow cobblestone streets on the flat of the hill, then turned onto Beacon Street and trotted on paved sidewalk. Hugging the briefcase to her chest, she made herself as small as possible under the newspaper. Given that she was small to begin with, it should have been enough, but the Post was quickly a soggy mess around her ears, and the tank top and short skirt that had been perfect in the morning's heat left far too much skin exposed to the cool rain. She pushed on with her head down, turning left on Arlington and right on Commonwealth. Despite the shelter of the trees here, the gusting air had a straight shot in from the west and was even cooler. She hurried against it down one block, then a second, third, and fourth. By the time she reached the end of the fifth block, she might as well have tossed the paper away. Her hair was as wet as everything else. Entering the outer lobby of her apartment building, she held the dripping paper off to the side while she fished in her briefcase for keys. Seconds later she was inside, and what had felt stuffy that morning was suddenly welcome. Pushing wet hair off her face, she went past the elevator to the trash closet and dropped the sodden Post in the paper bin. She hadn't read it yet, but doubted there was much to miss. Other than Archbishop Rossetti's elevation to Cardinal, which had been covered in depth the weekend before, the city scene was quiet. She turned into the mail room-and immediately wished she hadn't. Peter Oliver didn't intrigue her, but Tony Cohn did. He lived in one of the penthouse suites, was a business consultant, and as dark as Peter was blond. Classically, Peter was the better looking of the two, but there was

T ****** "~ Barbara Delinsky jo something about Tony that was foreign and daring. Lily wasn't a big talker under the best of conditions, but when Tony was in sight she was positively tongue-tied. Of course, Tony never asked her out, not for drinks, not for dinner. Other than the nod of his head or a short word of greeting if they were stuck in the elevator together, he didn't talk to her at all. He did look at her now, though. How could he not, with her all wet and bedraggled-wasn't it always the way? As unobtrusively as she could, she plucked the wet of her tank top away from her breasts. They were her best asset, but this was embarrassing. Not that he seemed impressed. "Got caught, huh?" he said in a voice that was just deep enough, just amused enough to cinch her humiliation. Nodding, she concentrated on unlocking her mailbox. She wondered where he would be thirty minutes later and why she couldn't bump into him then. She would look good then. She would look gorgeous then. But now? She slipped the mail from her box and was trying to think of something witty to say, knowing that even if she did think of something, even after years of speech therapy, she would probably mess up getting it out and be even more embarrassed than she already was-when he closed his mailbox and left the room. Releasing a breath, she listened for sounds from the lobby. After a minute she heard the whirr of the elevator door opening, then shutting. He could have waited for her. " Thank God he hadn't. Resigned, she left the mail room and looked through what she had in her hands while she waited for the elevator to return. There were two bills, two contracts for her services, and four pieces of junk. With any luck, the contracts contained deposits that would take care of the bills. She knew just what to do with the junk. She left the elevator at the fourth floor, just as one of her neighbors was about to board it. Elizabeth Davis owned a hot PR agency and had the breathless lifestyle to prove it. As always, she was dressed to the hilt. Her suit was red and short, her lipstick high gloss, her umbrella black and long. She had been using the mirror on the elevator panel to put on large gold earrings. Slipping into the elevator to finish up with the mirror there, she held the door open with a foot.

LAKE NEWS 31 "Lily. Good timing." Head tipped, eyes on the mirror, she worked at fastening the second earring. "I'm doing a bash for the Kagan for Governor Committee and need a pianist. It would be background music, not much singing, but I've heard you at the club, and you're perfect." She did look at Lily then, giving her a dismayed once-over. "Oh dear. You're wet." "Slightly," Lily said. "Well, you clean up good. I've seen you at work, understated elegance all the way, which is what we want. The fund-raiser is two weeks from tomorrow night. We can't pay-the budget is pathetically low-but I can almost guarantee you'll get another job or two out of the gig because important people will be there and important people give parties, so it wouldn't be a total loss from your point of view. Besides, Lydia Kagan would be the best thing for women in this state, so it's in your best interest to do it. What do you say?" Lily was nattered to be asked. Rarely did a week go by when Elizabeth's name wasn't in the Post. She ran top-notch functions. Lily knew she wasn't her first choice for this one, not at this late date, but that was fine. She liked playing at political functions. The more people there were, the easier it was to lose herself in the song. Besides, she agreed with Elizabeth's assessment of Lydia Kagan. I'll do it," she said. Elizabeth smiled broadly and removed her foot from the door. "I'll put it in writing, but mark your calendar now. It's a go. I'm counting on you." The elevator door closed. Lily was running too late to feel more than a passing satisfaction. Hurrying down the hall, she let herself into her own apartment. It was a small one-bedroom that she rented directly from an owner who loved green, her favorite color, and had a kind heart, which was the only reason she could afford the location. The living room was small and dominated by an upright piano against one wall and a stuffed bookcase against another. The only other furniture was a sofa with its back to windows overlooking the mall and an upholstered chair done in a matching flowered fabric of green, beige, and white. At the shoulder of the chair, more in the tiny front hall than the living room, was a glass table that held a telephone, a lamp, and the CD player that, with the touch of a button now, picked up in the middle of a flowing Chopin. The kitchen was one wall of the living room.

Barbara Delinsky 32 room, and the bedroom was just big enough for a double bed, but the whole apartment had been renovated, which meant that she had a modern marble bathroom with a glassed-in shower. That was where she headed, pulling off wet clothes, warming up under the hot spray, soaping, shampooing, and turning off the water well before she was ready, but the clock was ticking. In record time she applied makeup and blew her chin-length hair dry to give it a lift. She ate a quick peanut butter and jelly sandwich, then slipped into a plum-colored dress that worked with her fair skin and dark hair, stepped into black heels, and clipped on silver earrings that glittered and flowed. Grabbing a purse and an umbrella, she set off. Naturally, when she reached the lobby, Tony Cohn was nowhere in sight, but at least the rain had stopped. The Essex Club thrived in a large brownstone on the opposite side of Commonwealth Avenue, an easy three-block walk from her apartment. It was a private dinner club, elegantly decorated and skillfully run. Relieved to have made it with time to spare, she checked in at the office, where Daniel Curry, the club's owner, was taking a last-minute reservation. A square-built man of forty-five with perpetually ruddy cheeks, he acknowledged her arrival with the hitch of his chin and finished up on the phone. By that time she had stowed her things in the closet. She glanced at the reservation book. "Good?" "Very, for a Monday. There are a few empty tables out there now, but we'll be full in another hour. It's an easy crowd. A lot of old friends." He named a few, couples Lily had come to know in three years of playing there. "Any special requests?" she asked. "One thirtieth wedding anniversary, Tom and Dotty Frische. They'll be arriving at eight, table six. He's arranged to have a dozen red roses there and asked if you'd play 'The Twelfth of Never' when the champagne is uncorked." Lily loved doing that kind of thing. "Sure. Anything else?" When he shook his head, she left the office and climbed the winding staircase to the main dining room. It was decorated in the club's trademark dark wood and nineteenth-century oils. The color scheme was

LAKE NEWS 33 hunter green and burgundy, carried through table linens, china, carpeting, and draperies. The effect was rich and Old World, which made her feel part of something with a distinguished history. She greeted the maître d' and smiled at those patrons who caught her eye as she crossed the carpet. The piano was a baby grand, a Steinway, beautifully polished and tuned. There were times when she felt sinful being paid for playing it, but she wasn't about to tell her boss that. After taxes, what she earned at the Winchester School teaching music appreciation, coaching singing groups, and giving piano lessons barely paid for rent and food. Without her work here and at private parties, she wouldn't have money for much else. Besides, this job was what had brought her to Boston. The club was far nicer than the one she had played at in Albany. After settling comfortably on the bench, she warmed up her fingers with soft arpeggios. The keys felt cool and smooth. Like early morning coffee, those first few touches were always the best. Her hair fell forward as she watched her hands. Swinging it back when she raised her head, she slipped into the mildest of New Age work, variations on popular songs to which she gave a different beat, a gentle flow. Patrons might recognize the song, but even the most frequent diners at the club wouldn't hear the exact same rendition twice. Playing by ear, she just let loose and did what felt right at a given moment. She rarely used books or sheet music other than for learning classical work or, on occasion, the words to a collection of songs. More often, she simply bought CDs. Once she knew a tune she could play her own version, giving it whatever slant was appropriate to the audience. Some of the parties she played at called for soft rock, others for Broadway hits, others for Brahms. Adapting the same song for different audiences was one of the things Lily did best. It kept her fresh and challenged. The piano stood on a platform in the corner, allowing her to look out over the room as she played. She smiled in greeting to familiar faces, smiled generically at new ones. Dan had been right. The crowd was mellow. Granted, early diners were usually older and milder, but the club had its share of aged loudmouths. She didn't see any tonight. Based on the patrons she did see, she segued into a set of smooth oldies, leading with "Autumn Leaves" and "Moon River," moving on to

***** Barbara Delinsky 34 "Blue Moon" and "September." Twice she played requests passed on through the maître d'. She kept going until seven-thirty, when Dan brought her a glass of water. "Any questions?" he asked while she took a drink. She was careful not to look at the diners now. "Davis just seated a foursome at table twelve. They look familiar but.. . members?" "No. The men are the governors of New Hampshire and Connecticut, in town for the conference that just ended. You probably saw their pictures in the paper." That explained the familiarity, but it raised a new question. Lily definitely recognized the man at table nineteen. There was no mistaking that dark mustache. He was a reporter with the Post. "Is Terry Sullivan here watching the governors?" she asked. Dan smirked. "Not to my knowledge, or I wouldn't have let him in." The club protected its members. Journalists were welcome when they were guests of a member, as Terry Sullivan was. Few had the sponsors, much less the funds, to join themselves. "He must like the place. This is, what, his third time in as many weeks?" "Yes," Lily said. She had counted, too. "He likes you." "No." But she couldn't deny that she might have been the reason Terry was there. "It's business. He's doing a series of profiles of Boston performers and wants to do one on me." "That's nice." « Lily didn't think so. "I keep refusing him. He makes me nervous." "Must be the mustache," Dan said and glanced at the door. Cheeks ruddying up, he grinned as he straightened. "Ah. There he is." He set off. Lily broke into a smile of her own at the sight of Francis Rossetti. Archbishop Rossetti. Newly named Cardinal Rossetti. Saying the last would take some getting used to. Lily and the Cardinal went back a ways. She was every bit as proud of his elevation as Dan, who was married to his niece. Lily wasn't Catholic. She wasn't much of anything, but for several minutes, sipping her water, she marveled at the power of the man. He wore no elegant robe, no red hat. Those would come in four weeks, when he went to Rome for his first consistory. But he didn't need robes , !

LAKE NEWS 3S or a hat to be charismatic. He was a tall man who stood straight and wore his crisp black clerical suit, pewter pectoral cross, and thick silver hair with style. This wasn't the first time Lily had seen him since his elevation. A frequent pianist at archdiocesan events, she had played at a lawn party at his residence last night, but this was the first time he had been to the club. Without conscious thought, her hands found the keys and began playing the theme from Chariots of Fire. He heard it, looked over, and winked. Pleased, she finished the song and moved on to others. Fran Rossetti and she had played side by side often enough for her to know which songs he liked. He was a man who appreciated the fullness of life. His taste in music reflected that, in church and out. She played "Memory" and segued into "Argentina." She played "Deep Purple," the love theme from Dr. Zhivago, and then "The Way We Were." Promptly at eight, a couple was seated at the table with the red roses. Soon after, when the wine steward uncorked a bottle of champagne, Lily turned on the mike and played "The Twelfth of Never," singing in the rich alto that went so well with the club's decor. Dotty Frische took a visible breath. She glanced briefly at Lily-then positively beamed at her husband. It made Lily's night. * There was soft applause at the end of the song, so Lily did a medley of other Johnny Mathis hits before returning to singing more Broadway. By the time she was done, it was eight-thirty and time for a break. "Fifteen minutes," she told her audience, and turned off the mike to scattered applause. Dan was talking with the maître d' in an alcove just beyond the dining room entrance. He gave her a thumbs-up when she approached. "You did good. He was in seventh heaven." "You didn't tell me your uncle was coming," she scolded. Dan glanced behind her. "I'm telling you now. Here he comes." She turned with a wide smile. When the Cardinal gave her a hug, she hugged him back. No matter that the man was a church icon; he came from what he was the first to describe as a large family with an earthy style. It had taken Lily a while to get used to it, but the sheer innocence of his physicality was a delight. I 0 Li !„, C c

Barbara Delinsky


"Thankyou," he said now. "For what?" "For" playing my song. For playing all my songs. For playing last night-and for coming back with that music." He grasped Dan's shoulder. "Do you know what she did? After playing for three hours straight, she drove home and then all the way back with a book of music I wanted." He told Lily, "I was up playing until two in the morning. It's a wonderful collection." "How's your table?" Dan asked. "Great. Great food. Not what Mama used to make," he hedged, winking at Lily, "but a close second." He gave her arm a squeeze and returned to the dining room. Lily climbed the curved staircase to the third-floor ladies' room. She came out just as the Post reporter was leaving the men's room. He wore a blazer and slacks, and was tall, slim, and pleasant looking, but the mustache remained his most compelling feature. "You have a wonderful voice," he said. He had told her that before, twice at the club, once when he called her at home. Not that she had given him her phone number. It was unlisted. But the school directory had it. Terry had wheedled it out of Mitch Rellejik, a writer friend of his who moonlighted as faculty adviser to the school newspaper. Mitch had phoned her himself to tell her what a great guy Terry was. Lily wasn't convinced. Reluctant to encourage conversation, she gave him a smile and a quiet thanks as she headed for the stairs. He kept pace. "You never disappoint. Whether it's here or at parties, you're good. Beautiful, too, but you must hear that all the time. By the way, you didn't seem nervous." Lily tucked away the "beautiful" part-which she did not hear all the time, and being human and female, rather liked-and said, "I do this for a living." "I mean, playing for the Cardinal. He's an important guy. Don't you get a little shaky playing for him?" She chuckled. "Oh, no. He's heard me play too many times for that." "Huh. That's right. I did hear that he likes music." "He doesn't just like it. He's good at it."

LAKE NEWS 37 "Sings? Plays instruments?" -• "Both." "A Renaissance man, then?" Wondering if he was being sarcastic, Lily stopped at the bottom of the stairs to search his face. "Actually, yes." He smiled and held up his hands. "No offense meant. I'm as much a fan as the next guy. He fascinates me. I've never met a man of the cloth quite like him. He inspires piety." Lily relaxed some. "Yes." Terry narrowed an eye. "Half the women I know are in love with him. He's a virile guy." Lily was embarrassed even thinking about Fran Rossetti that way. "Don't tell me you haven't noticed?" he asked. "In fact, I haven't. He's a priest." "And you're not even a little bit in love with him?" "Of course I am. I love him as a person. He's insightful and supportive. He hears and listens and responds." >< "Sounds like you know him well." . */ She was proud to admit it. "We have a history. I met him when he was Father Fran, just about to be appointed Bishop of Albany." "No kidding?" Something about his nonchalance was a bit much. It reminded her that he was a reporter. She nodded and checked her watch. "I have to get back to work." "How late do you play tonight?" he asked, walking beside her. "Ten-thirty." "Without dinner?" "I ate before." "Can I buy you a snack when you get off?" He had offered something similar when he called her apartment. At the time, she had thought it an attempt to make the idea of an interview more palatable. Now, with him standing there in person-the right height for her, the right age, and maritally free, Mitch Rellejik had saidit almost felt like something else. Almost-but there was still that mustache, which was alternately dashing and hard. And there was an intensity in his eyes that didn't hit her right.

Barbara Delïnsky 38 She wasn't that desperate for a date. At the dining room entrance now, she smiled and shook her head. "Thanks, anyway," she said and went on inside. Back at the piano, she began playing the kind of music that this later crowd would enjoy. She sang "Almost Paradise," "Candle in the Wind," and "Total Eclipse of the Heart." She did some Carly Simon, some James Taylor, some Harry Connick, Jr. She loved every song she played. If she didn't, she wouldn't be able to perform with feeling, but the feeling came easily with these songs. They were her generation's favorites. Playing without effort, swinging her hair back from her face and leaning forward to sing into the mike, she blotted out the audience and let her heart take over. Singing had always been her salvation, the only time when she was naturally free of a stutter. Though time and training had freed her to speak, singing remained special. She might not have been able to make it on Broadway, but when she was lost in a song this way, she could just as well have been there. The feeling of pleasure, of success, of escape was the same. Halfway through the second set, the Frisches came over to thank her for helping make their anniversary special. A short time after they left, another patron, Peter Swift, sat beside her on the piano bench and sang harmony. He had a beautiful voice and often joined Lily in a song or two when he and his wife ate at the club. The spontaneity of it never failed to please the crowd. Soon after Peter returned to his table, the Cardinal took his place. She was playing "I Dreamed a Dream" from Les Miz at the time. He played along in the lower registers through the end of it, then joined right in with the more throbbing chords of "Red and Black." When it was done, he gave her hand a squeeze, rejoined his waiting guests, and left the dining room. All told, it was a good show. Lily was tired but satisfied when she finally closed the piano lid. A handful of guests lingered over second or third cups of coffee, but the rest of the tables had been cleaned and reset. Half of the wait staff had left. The chef, George Mendes, who had trained in New York and was just Lily's age, had changed from his whites into jeans and was waiting for her in the office. He held out a bag. "You like risotto. Tonight's was great."

r LAKE NEWS 39 She was touched that he remembered. He hadn't been at the club for long, and she was only one of many who raved about his food. "Thanks," she said with feeling and took the bag. "This'll be tomorrow's dinner. Are you walking home?" He lived in her direction. "Not yet. I have to run a few menu changes past Dan. He's upstairs." The third floor of the brownstone held private dining rooms, the fourth held overnight accommodations. Lily knew from experience that Dan could be a while, and she was too tired to wait. "Then I'm off," she said, and called over her shoulder as she left, "Thanks again for the risotto." She was thinking that if George had been straight, she could be seriously interested in him, when she reached the street and found Terry Sullivan leaning against the wide stone stoop. He looked innocent enough in the gaslight's glow, but a part of her was starting to feel harassed. She had refused him three times. He was annoyingly dogged. She went quickly down the steps and hit the sidewalk in something just shy of a trot, in the hope that he might take the hint. "Hey, hey." He fell into step with her. "Where're you running to?" "Home." "Mind if I walk along?" : "That depends. I haven't changed my mind about your interview." "But it doesn't make sense. The publicity would be great for you." Lily might have agreed several years before, but she had been struggling then. Now, between teaching and the club, she received two fixed monthly paychecks. Add what she earned playing at private functions, and she was content. She didn't need more work, hence didn't need publicity. "Is it me?" Terry asked. "Does something about me offend you?" "Of course not," she said, because it wasn't her way to hurt people. "I'm just. . . private." "It's the public you I'm interested in-the one who rubs hips, so to speak, with people like Cardinal Rossetti." He made a whistling sound. "That was amazing, the two of you playing tonight." He took a long breath. "I really want to do this interview." They reached a corner. She shook her head, waiting only until the traffic cleared before trotting across the street.

«*»>4* Barbara Delinsky 40 He kept pace. "Are you sure it isn't me? Would you talk to one of my colleagues?" "No." "Ah. You hate the press. You're afraid someone will misuse your words. But I'm a good guy, Lily. How can I not be, especially with you? I'm Catholic, and you're Cardinal Rossetti's pal. Would I dare do anything bad, knowing it'd get back to him, knowing I might risk eternal damnation if it did?" Lily didn't believe in eternal damnation, but if Terry Sullivan did, that helped. She slowed down a notch. "I feel like I should know everything about the guy," Terry said conversationally. "I mean, my paper's covered him from head to toe, and the Post is good." He looked at her, earnest now. His voice was lower, almost confidential. "Listen. The Fourth Estate has taken a lot of flak lately. Some of it's deserved. Most isn't. It's like everything else. There may be a few bad apples, but that doesn't mean we're all rotten, and since I've already confessed my fear of eternal damnation ..." She had to give him credit for being upfront. "What's so fascinating," he went on, seeming caught up in it, "is the way the Cardinal is so normal. I mean, there he was, sitting beside you, playing the piano. I half expected him to start belting out the words." Lily smiled. She couldn't help herself. "Oh, he's done that too." "You're kidding." She shook her head. ' "••» r"In public?" '•-' ; • "In private, in small groups. He used to do it more, before all this." "You mean, before he was named Cardinal?" She nodded again. "So you met him in Albany. What was he like then?" He sounded genuinely intrigued, not at all grilling as a reporter would be, but more personally involved-and Lily was a sucker for fans of her friend. "Warm," she said. "Vibrant. But I actually met him in Manhattan." "What was he doing there?" "Visiting the Cardinal there. They both went to a reception at the mayor's house. I was playing."

LAKE NEWS 41 "You played at the mayor's house? I'm impressed." "Don't be. I was a Broadway wannabe and taught piano to pay the bills. His kids took lessons. That's how he knew me." "A Broadway wannabe," Terry said, still sounding impressed. "No more?" She shook her head. "Were you in anything?" "A few ensembles. Nothing major." "Do you dance, too?" "Not well enough." "Ah. I understand." He let her off the hook. "So you met Cardinal Rossetti in the city and followed him to Albany?" She didn't answer. After another minute of walking, she felt him looking at her. When she met his eye, he said, "Why the frown?" "This feels like an interview." "It's not. It's just me, interested in you." If she was frowning now, it was in skepticism. • "I've never met a religious groupie before," he teased. She sighed. "I'm not a religious groupie. I didn't follow Cardinal Rosetti to Albany. I followed the mayor there." She caught herself. "Ooops. That came out wrong." She felt a tiny tightness at the back of her tongue and focused on relaxing it. With a single, slow, calming breath, it dissolved. Flawlessly, she explained, "My relationship was with his kids. They loved me, and they'd been shaken by the divorce. When he was elected governor, he had to move to Albany, and the kids went with him. He figured that if I kept teaching them, it would be one thing that didn't change in their lives. When a position opened up in a private school there, the timing seemed right." "So you gave up on Broadway?" "It gave up on me," she said and slid him a wary look. "You're smooth." He tipped his head. "How?" "Getting me to talk after I said I wouldn't." "This is what's called a social conversation." He held up his hands. "No pen, no paper. Strictly off-the-cuff. Like I say, the Cardinal intrigues me. So-he was the Bishop of Albany when you moved there"?

Barbara Delinsky 42 Social conversation or not, Lily didn't want to talk about herself or the Cardinal to Terry. But he did look intrigued. And Mitch Rellejik had vouched for him. And the question was innocent enough. ; i • So she said, "He was." - • "And that's where you really got to know him?" She nodded. "Did you ever dream he'd be a Cardinal one day?" She shook her head. "But I'm not surprised. Father Fran gets it." "Gets it?" "Understands people." "You saw that?" N . . They had reached another corner and were waiting to cross. Traffic leaving the city sped by in a blur of lights and chrome. "He understood me," she said. "I've been grappling with things. He's been-" How to describe Fran Rossetti in a word? Friend? Adviser? Therapist? "He's been a comfort." "So you followed him to Boston?" Her eyes flew to his. Here was the reporter again, more prodding than casual. Terry winced. "Sorry. Nothing untoward meant. Asking questions is a habit. I was always doing it as a kid, so I went into journalism. No other field would have me. It's the tone. Hard to turn off, but I'll try." He sounded so sincere that Lily relented. "I followed him to Boston only in the sense that I moved here soon after he did." Terry didn't say anything. When the light changed, they crossed the street and walked on. Still feeling guilty for overreacting, she volunteered, "Father Fran told me about the Essex Club. It was a step up from the club I played at in Albany, and Dan's regular had just given notice. When I found a teaching position here, it was like it was meant to be." Terry looked thoughtful, walking with his hands in his pockets and his eyes on the brownstones ahead. "Neat club, the Essex. Isn't it pricey for a Cardinal?" "Not when his nephew owns the place," she said. "Is that kosher?"

LAKE NEWS 43 "Usually the people he's with pick up the tab. Big donors to the church." v . .(.< "Is that kosher?" "Why not?" "Bribery. Favor seeking." "From a Cardinal? What does a Cardinal have to sell?" "Political clout. A good word to the gov, or the prez." He wiggled his brows. "Maybe a kiss." She leveled him a look. "I don't think so." I'm kidding," he chided. She wasn't sure she liked the joke, but then, she tended to take things too literally. At least, that was what the last guy she dated had said when they called it quits. Actually, he had used the word "dour," and though she didn't believe she was that bad, she made an effort now to go to the other extreme. "A kiss?" she kidded back. "Why not a weekend? Auctioned off for charity." Terry laughed. "Warmin up, Lily Blake. It'd bring in a bundle for his favorite cause. I'm telling you, dozens of women would bid." She smiled. "Can you imagine some woman telling a friend, 'The Cardinal and I are having an affair'?" "A passionate affair?" Terry asked in the voice of that startled friend. Lily played along. "What other kind is there? Forget the auction. We've been doing it for years. " He put back his head and laughed. She laughed, too, then said, "Cute. But not Father Fran. If anyone gets anything from those dinners, it's the church. This is it," she said, coming to a stop in front of her building. She turned to him, thinking that the laughter had been nice. "You're an interesting person," he said, grinning. "Think you could fit me in between dates with the Cardinal?" She grinned back. "I don't know. He takes a lot of my time." She made a pretense of mental calculation. "I could probably fit you in some time next week. I'll have to check." As she moved past him, she tossed him a dry "You have my number." She went into the building without looking back and slipped into the

Barbara Delinsky 44 elevator feeling buoyed. She didn't know if she liked Terry Sullivan,, didn't know if they had another thing in common besides admiration for the Cardinal. She hadn't felt an instant attraction to the reporter, but: things like physical attraction sometimes took time. She did know that: she wasn't interested in Peter Oliver, Tony Cohn wasn't interested in her, and she wasn't getting any younger. She had never dated a reporter before. If nothing else, it might make; for an educational dinner or two. She never dreamed that the education would come so soon, and at her own expense. - ; » • ,*-i*>-

G H APT E R 3 Cl1"'f^< Since Lily worked nights and rarely had an early class, she usually took her time waking up. This morning the phone jolted her out of bed at eight. Her first thought was that something was wrong back home. "Hello?" she asked, frightened. "Lily Blake, please," said a man she didn't know. His voice was all business. Poppy's doctor? Her mother's doctor? "Speaking." "This is George Fox. I'm with the Cape Sentinel. I wonder if you would comment on your relationship with Cardinal Rossetti." "Excuse me?" "Your relationship with Cardinal Rossetti. Can you tell me about it?" She didn't understand. The newspapers had already covered almost everything about the Cardinal that there was to cover. She was irrelevant, only one of many of his friends, and the one least equipped to talk with the press. "You'll have to call the archdiocese. They'll tell you anything you want to know." "Are you having an affair with the Cardinal?" "A what?" When he repeated his question, she cried, "Good God, no." It was a prank call, but not a blind one, since she did know the Cardinal. Cautious, curious, she said, "This number is unlisted. How did you get it?" Terry Sullivan was the only reporter she knew, and yes, he had her number. She didn't want to think he was passing it around. "Were you having an affair with Cardinal Rossetti in Albany?" the

Barbara Delinsky 46 porter asked just as her call waiting beeped. She was unsettled enough by his question to switch right to the second call. "Yes?" ..-..-,.., ,r; . "Lily Blake?" "Who is this?" "Paul Rizzo, Cityside. " Cityside was a renegade daily that had come from nowhere to rival Boston's mainstream press. "I'm looking for a cornment on the Post story." Her heart was pumping faster. "What story?" "The one saying that you and the Cardinal are sexually involved." She hung up. On both calls. After waiting a minute for the dial tone to return, she lifted the receiver and dropped it in the bedding. She didn't believe there was any story in the Post-how could there be one, with no substance?-but after two calls, she had to see for herself. Slipping on a coat over her nightshirt, she took the elevator to the first floor and had barely started for the outer lobby where the daily papers were left when she saw someone waiting. He had a tape recorder hanging from his shoulder and a microphone in his hand. At the sight of her, he came to life. She slipped back into the elevator seconds before the door closed, and quickly pressed her floor. For good measure, to hide her destination, she pressed every floor above her own on the panel. As soon as she was in her apartment again, she linked her laptop to the phone line and accessed the Post on-line. She didn't have to go past the home page. It was right there in big, bold letters-the lead story. CARDINAL LINKED TO CABARET SINGER Beside it was a picture, apparently taken the night before, of the two of them, arm to arm, hip to hip on the piano bench, smiling at each other, in vivid, crystal-clear color. Horrified, Lily began to read. •~,:\ . r- :''!j?;. : ; ' '," Less than a week ago, Archbishop Francis P. Rossetti was elevated to Cardinal amid an outpouring of praise for his humanitarian achieve-

LAKE NEWS 47 ments and religious devotion. With the celebration barely over, the Post has learned that Cardinal Rossetti has led a double life. In an exclusive story, the Headline Team reveals a long-term relationship between the Cardinal and Lily Blake, 34, a cabaret singer at the posh Essex Club on Commonwealth Avenue. Bewildered, she clicked on to the rest of the story. Blake and the Cardinal met eight years ago at a party in New York City. They were introduced by then Mayor William Dean, who had first spotted Blake on the Broadway stage. As soon as the mayor and his wife separated, Blake became a regular guest at Gracie Mansion. It was there that she met the Cardinal. Lily was incredulous. She read now with a kind of morbid fascination. Two years later, when the mayor was elected governor of New York and moved to Albany, Blake went with him. Between twice-weekly visits to the Governor's Mansion, she sang at a nightclub not far from the State House. In addition, the governor set her up entertaining at private parties. "No, he didn't," she cried. "Those bookings came from my work at the club!" Francis Rossetti, then Bishop of Albany, often attended those parties. He began inviting Blake to play at similar events at the Bishop's residence. Within months, she became a frequent visitor. One employee of the diocese, who asked to remain anonymous, said it was obvious that Rossetti and Blake cared for each other. She was often seen leaving the residence in the early morning hours. "With other people!" she told the screen in outrage. "The two times we might have been alone were when we were playing the piano after a party and lost track of the time!"

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LAKE NE WS 51 I'll be able to answer the parents who call. Several already have. I wish you hadn't given the paper the name of the school." "I didn't!" "Then how did they get it?" "I don't knnn-know." Another breath, and the return of control. "I guess the same way they learned that I went to NYU. I graduated with honors. They didn't sss-say that. Or that I got a degree from Juilliard. Or that «the only reason I went to the Governor's Mansion twice a week was to give piano lessons to his kids. Or that the governor was never there when I was." She pushed a hand into her hair. It stopped midway and hung on. The reality she had been trying to ignore was finally taking root. "This is all over Boston. All over the state. " She was feeling the horror of it when her eyes met Michael's. "I have to reach the Cardinal." He gestured toward the desk, offering her the phone. She punched out the number she had called earlier. It was still busy. "Oh God," she breathed, frightened. "This could ruin him." She looked at Michael. "What do I do?" "Hire a lawyer." "But this is just a mistake." She didn't want to think it was malicious--couldn't believe that Terry Sullivan would go to this kind of extreme just because she had refused to be interviewed--couldn't believe that he would deliberately slander the Cardinal this way. "Hire a lawyer," Michael repeated. "I can't. I don't have money. Besides, why do I need a lawyer? I haven't done anything wrong." "You need a spokesperson. Someone to issue a denial. Someone to challenge the Post. " She took a breath and tried to remain calm. "Governor Dean denied it. So did the Cardinal. He'll do it again. It'll be over and done." Lifting the phone again, she tried the Post. This time when she reached the newsroom, she lucked out. "Sullivan here," she heard, and something about his cold voice, something about the image she conjured of a slick, mustached man who appeared to have wooed her with lies, made her snap. Fury alone kept her tongue fluid. "This is Lily Blake. Your story is wrong." Il

Barbara Delinsky 52 His voice stayed cold. "Wrong? No, it isn't. I check out my facts." "There's nothing going on between the Cardinal and me." "It sure looks that way." "You made it look that way," she charged. "You were the one who kept talking about the Cardinal being appealing to women. You led me into a hypothetical discussion, then took my words out of context. That's really . . . ssss-scummy! You also said our conversation was off the record." ; "I never said that." :• "Youdid" .. ' o; "I said off the cuff.' That's different from 'off the record.' " "You knew what I meant!" Looking straight at Michael Eddy, she said, "You also knew my phone number was unlisted, so you got it from Mitch Rellejik, who had no right to give it to you in the first place. Now two other nnn-newspaper people have it. That's a violation of my privacy!" "Look, Lily," he said with a sigh, "I'm sorry if this upsets you, but the truth sometimes does. I saw the way you looked at the guy last night at the club. And then you gave me quotes on a silver platter." She was livid. "You twwwwisted what I said! That is the most shoddy thing! And you lied to me. Over and over, you lied. Now you've lied in the paper, and people all over are reading it. I want a retraction." He laughed. "Are you kidding? This is the hottest story in town." She didn't understand his complacence. "Why are you doing this?" "It's my job." "To smear people? You said you loved the Cardinal." "No. You said that." "You talked about eternal damnation." He laughed again. "Honey, I was eternally damned long before this story." There had to be a method to his madness. "Do you have something against the Cardinal?" He was suddenly impatient. "Look, in my business, you get wind of a good story, you run with it. If you hit a wall, you back off. If not, you keep going. I'm going, baby. I'm going right to the end." "But this is a lie!" "Tell it to the Pope. Hey, there's my other line. Take care."

LAKE NEWS S3 The phone went dead. Lily stared at the receiver. Floored, she looked at Michael. He held up his hands. "I've already given you my advice. I don't know what more to say. My concern is this school." Lily tried the Cardinal's number again. It was still busy. Carefully, she replaced the receiver. "This is unreal," she said, more to herself than her boss. "But it's all right. The Cardinal has power in this city. He'll clear everything up. That's probably why his line is busy." She glanced at the clock. "I have a class." If any of the fifteen students taking music appreciation were aware of the Post article, none mentioned it. They were as blasé as ever. By the time fifty minutes had passed and the bell rang to end the period, Lily had convinced herself that, Terry Sullivan's treachery notwithstanding, the article was nothing more than a bad judgment call on the part of the Post, that the Cardinal would raise Cain and get a retraction printed, that the whole matter would be quickly forgotten. She tried to call him again, but the line was still busy. With five minutes to spare before a piano lesson, she went to the cafeteria for a cold drink. The first lunch period was under way. One step into the large, high-ceilinged room and she heard the sudden drop of conversation, felt the force of dozens of pairs of eyes. It isn't true, she wanted to say, but her tongue was tight. So she simply shook her head and gestured no, got her drink, and left. By the time her student arrived at the practice room, she had recomposed herself, but she knew what his curious look meant. "The Post article," she told him, "is wrong. The Cardinal is a friend, nothing more." "I believe you," the boy said. He was sixteen, a lacrosse player struggling to fulfill an art requirement by taking piano lessons that he hated, but he did sound sincere. So she set the Post story aside and tried to focus on his lesson and two others that foEowed, but she kept expecting an office assistant to cut in with a message from the Cardinal saying that everything was fine, that he would handle it, that she shouldn't worry.

Barbara Delinsky $4 The door remained shut for everything but the departure of one student and the arrival of the next, and when the three lessons were done, she tried the Cardinal again, still with no luck. Fortunately, she wasn't hungry. She didn't want to face a cafeteria full of stares until a retraction appeared, an apology was issued, and the Post had egg on its face. She might laugh along with the rest then, but not now-nor at two-thirty, when her girls' a cappella chorus met. Each of the twelve was sober and staring. Clearly they knew about the article. She stood before them, aware that her shoulders were drooping but unable to help it. She was starting to feel the strain. Quietly, she said, "Questions?" When the girls were silent, she said, "I'll answer the one you won't ask. The Cardinal is a man of the church. He would no more have an affair with me than I would have one with him." She looked from one face to the next until she saw a modicum of acceptance, then she reached for printouts of a new song and handed each trio of voices its part. The practice went well. At other times Lily coached a larger mixed chorus, of freshmen and sophomores, but the small, upper-class groups, one male and one female, were her favorites. Some of the students had wonderful voices. The idea that she could train them was a gratifying one. By the time the hour ended, she was starting to feel like herself again. Then she got through to the Cardinal's secretary. Father McDonough was a young priest who had landed the plum assignment in Brighton as a result of his attention to detail and his endless good nature. The Cardinal relied on him heavily. As for Lily, she knew the man only by name and voice. After identifying herself, she said with relief, "Thank goodness. Your line's been tied up. What's going on?" "I take it you saw the story." "Yes. The reporter was at the club last night. He told me he was a fan of the Cardinal. We got to talking. He took words here and there and fabricated a story." "Well, it's made an awful mess." "But it's all false." And nonsensical. "Does the Cardinal know Terry Sullivan?" Maybe their paths had crossed. Maybe there was some personal enmity.

LAKE NEWS 55 "He knows him now. We've had calls from everywhere." "Has he demanded a retraction?" "Our lawyers have," came the reply, and for the first time Lily realized that the voice was cooler than usual. "Oh. Shhh-ould I hire a lawyer?" She wanted him to say, in his normally good-natured way, that there was no need, that the Cardinal's team would resolve the matter, that it was already nearly done. Instead, he sounded distant. "I can't advise you on that. Our concern is protecting the Church. We're trying our best to do that. But it might be better if you didn't call here again until everything is straightened out." Lily felt as though she'd been slapped-as though she had sinned and in so doing had single-handedly caused a deep embarrassment for the Church. Stunned, she said, "I see. Uh. Thank you." Quietly, she hung up the phone. Things went downhill from there. After suffering through one more private lesson, she packed up her briefcase and headed home. She had no sooner breathed a sigh of relief that the front steps of the school were clear than she hit the sidewalk and, seemingly from nowhere, a woman with a microphone appeared. "Ms. Blake, would you comment on the Post story?" Lily shook her head and hurried on, but the reporter kept pace. "The archdiocese has issued an official denial. Doesn't that contradict your quotes in the Post?" "The Post lies," Lily muttered, keeping her arms around her briefcase, her head bowed, her eyes on the cobblestone underfoot. A male voice said, "Paul Rizzo, Cityside. You were seen leaving the Cardinal's residence late Sunday night. Why were you there?" He was a balding man whose baby-smooth skin suggested that the hair loss was premature. His eyes were unblinking. His chin jutted forward. He reminded Lily of the hook stuck in the mouth of the very first trout she had ever caught for herself at the lake. Then and now, she was repulsed. I was hired to play the piano, she wanted to tell him, but her tongue was tight, and she knew she would never get the words out. So she lowered her head and kept her feet moving fast. I

Barbara Delinsky 56 "When did you break up with Governor Dean?" "Was the Cardinal aware of your relationship with the governor?" "How do you explain the late-night phone calls?" "Is it true that you were in the Cardinal's arms at the Essex Club last night?" When Lily looked up to say an angry "No," a cameraman snapped her picture. Ducking her head again, she hurried on, but the questions got worse. "Where did you do it?" "What kind of sex?" "Has the Church tried to buy your silence?" "What does your family think of this?" Lily shuddered to think what her family thought. She shuddered to think that they even knew, period. But they did. She learned it soon after she reached home and listened to the messages on her machine. There, sandwiched between calls from what, to her horror, seemed to be every major newspaper and television station in the country, was the voice of her sister Poppy. "What's going on, Lily? The calls are coming in hot and heavy, even more after the noon news. I've been deflecting as many as I can, but Mom \sfurious! Phone me, will you?" The noon news? Lily's stomach turned over. But, of course, television would pick up the story. Isn't that what the man in the outer lobby this morning had been about? So maybe it had been naïve of her to think that the story would be contained-but did the media have to call her mother? Lily's relationship with Maida Blake was precarious enough. This wouldn't help. Needing to hear a friendly voice, she sank into the chair by the phone and punched in Poppy's number. Poppy was barely two years her junior, and the sweetest, most upbeat person Lily knew, despite circumstances that might have caused her to be anything but. Poppy Blake was a paraplegic, confined to a wheelchair since a snowmobile accident nearly a dozen years before. If anyone had a right to self-pity, she did, but she refused to waste energy on it. As soon after the accident as she was able, she had moved into her own place on the lake and started a telephone

LAKE NEWS 57 answering service for Lake Henry and neighboring towns. Now she had state-of-the-art equipment, with sophisticated computer hookups and an increasingly large bank of phone buttons. The business had grown so fast that she even had a roster of part-timers who covered for her when she went out, which, bless her, she often did. She had caller ID, which enabled her to say the instant she picked up the call, "Lily! Thank goodness! What's happening?" "Nightmare," Lily said. "Total nightmare. When did you hear?" "Early today. People in town either read it in the Post or on the Net. Around midmorning, calls started coming in from reporters-Boston, New York,Washington, Atlanta-and then there's the tube. They're showing pictures-Lily and the Cardinal, Lily and the governor." "Mom saw?" Lily asked in alarm. "Mom saw. Kip called yesterday to warn me about the Post guy, but he didn't say why, so how was I supposed to know about the others? I wish you'd told us." "How could I? I didn't know. I didn't see the paper until this morning, and was as shocked as anyone. It's a bogus story, Poppy." "I know that, but Mom doesn't," Poppy said bluntly. "She's convinced that everything she said all along is true and that it was only a matter of time before something like this happened." "It wasn't-and I don't know why it's happening now." She fought back tears of frustration. "I thought this reporter was a friend. He came on to me, you know, asked if I'd go out with him. Sss-stupid me. Stupid me," she cried in self-reproach, "but he was a pro, got me talking, then pieced little phrases together to create something sordid. What kind of person does that? Okay. He doesn't know me. To him, I'm a nothing. But the Cardinal isn't. How can he do this to the Cardinal? Or is it just that there isn't much else going on in the world and the papers are starved for sleeze? What did Mom say? What were the words?" "They don't matter," Poppy said. "She's just in a stir. What should I tell her?" Lily pressed shaky fingertips to her forehead. She had worked so hard to win her mother's confidence. The Winchester School, where she taught, had a fine reputation. The Essex Club was as upscale as a dining

Barbara Delinsky $8 establishment could be. And then there was Father Fran-ah, the irony of that! Such a strong, dignified, upstanding man. She had always thought that her friendship with him would win points with Maida. "Tell her not to look at the paper," she told Poppy. "There's no basis to any of this. It'll play itself out in a day or two." It had to. The alternative was unthinkable. "Have you issued a denial?" ; "I keep saying it isn't true." "You need a lawyer." "I hate lawyers." Poppy grew gentler. "I know, honey, but this is libel. What does the Cardinal say?" "I haven't talked with him." The hurt returned. "I called there and was told not to call again." "Who told you that? They aren't going to blame this whole thing on you, are they? Damn it, Lily, it takes two to tango. He's the one who's always touching people." "But it's innocent." "Not in the eyes of the press. You have a job-two jobs-to protect, and a reputation. They've all but labeled you a whore. If that isn't a violation of your rights, I don't know what is!" "But if I hire a lawyer, that says I need a lawyer, which I don't, since I haven't done anything wrong. I give the story one day-stretching it, maybe two." Lily paused, alert. "What was that?" "What?" "That click." "What click?" She listened again, heard nothing, sighed. "I must be paranoid." "Maybe you should call Governor Dean." "And have an aide tell me not to call there, either? I don't think so. Why are reporters calling Lake Henry? What are they looking for?" "Anything they can take and twist to increase their sales. What do you want me to tell them?" "That the story isn't true. That Sullivan is lying. That I'm suing." She paused and asked quietly, "What about Rose?" Rose was the last of the "Blake blooms," as Lake Henry called the

LAKE NE WS S9 three Blake girls. She was a year younger than Poppy, which made her thirty-one. More relevant, she had been barely pubescent when Lily's problems had peaked, too young to have a mind of her own, too young to question what her mother said and thought. Poppy had been far stronger even back then. She had been able to straddle the fence between Maida and Lily, but Rose had been her mother's mouthpiece from the start, and life's circumstances had done nothing to discourage it. Rose was married, with three children. She and her husband, a childhood sweetheart whose family owned the local mill, lived on the piece of land that had been her wedding gift from the senior Blakes. Always close, Rose and Maida had grown even closer in the three years since Maida's husband, the girls' father, had died. Experience told Lily not to expect support from Rose. Still, hope lived eternal. Apparently it lived in Poppy, too, because-as though she had tried and failed-she said an uncharacteristically cross "Rose is an old poop. She doesn't have an independent thought in her head. Don't worry yourself about Rose, and as for the rest of town, I'll tell them what to say if anyone calls. They don't take kindly to having one of their own maligned." "It's been years since I've been one of their own," Lily reminded her. "They forced me out when I was barely eighteen." "No. You chose to leave." ; "Only because they made life unbearable for me." "Mom did that, Lily." Lily sighed. She wasn't up for arguing, not now. "I have to go to work." "Will you keep me in the loop?" Poppy asked. "I know that Blakes have burned you, Lily, but I'm on your side."

CHAPTER 4 Cl'"fc J/^i Lily refused to turn on the television. She didn't want to see rf** whether she was in the news, preferring to think that the story was already old. But when she reached the lobby dressed for work, the crowd of journalists outside was larger than ever. Dismayed, she took the elevator to the garage, but reporters were there, too, radioing her arrival to those in front. Resigned, since there was no other exit and she had to get to work, she lowered her eyes and walked quickly. She ignored the questions shot at her and kept her head down, letting her hair fall forward to shield her face from cameras. StiE, the questions increased in volume and frequency, along with the click-and-advance of film as the media phalanx grew. The nearer she got to the club, the more they crowded in. When she was jostled so closely that it became hard to walk, she swung around with her elbows out. "Leave me alone, " she cried through the whirr of snapping cameras. She spun forward and continued on, but she might as well have saved her breath. The crowd came with her in a wave, badgering her with the same questions, goading her into another outburst. She tried to blot them out by thinking of other things, but almost everything in her life just then led back to this moment, this trauma. She was close to tears when she finally reached the club. Mercifully, Dan was at the door, letting her in, shutting the press out. She went straight to his office, sank into a chair, and put her face in her hands. When she heard him enter, she dropped her hands to her lap.

LAKE NEWS 6i "Rough day?" he asked kindly. Not trusting her voice, she nodded. She studied his face. He smiled sadly. "No need to wonder. I know you, and I know the Cardinal. There's nothing between the two of you but the same kind of friendship he has with people all over the city, all over the country, all over the world. " "Then why is this happening here, now?" "Because he was just named Cardinal. That makes for bigger headlines and bigger sales of papers." "That's sick." "Lately it's the way things work." She took a breath, still upset from having run the gauntlet of reporters and cameras. "What happens now? They got their splashy headlines. There's no more story, so it dies. Right?" "I hope so," he said, but without the conviction she wanted. He seemed tired, as though he'd had a rough day, too. He also looked pale, and while pallor on Lily was only a step away from her normal color, it was a far cry from Dan's. She had the awful thought that he wasn't saying everything he knew. "How does tonight look here?" she asked with caution, wondering if business was hurt. "Booked solid." s She brightened. "That's good, isn't it?" > The answer was relative. Yes, the dining room was filled with paying guests, but most of them were new faces, guests of members, and they spent an inordinate amount of time watching the pianist. Lily tried to tune them out. She often did that when she performedused the music as an escape-and for a while she succeeded, losing herself in the fantasy of the song-until the flash of a camera broke her concentration. Dan spoke with the offending party and Lily resumed playing, but she didn't sing. No matter that she never stuttered when she sang; she was too unsettled to risk even the most remote chance of it. Two other flashes went off during the course of the evening, and by the end of the last set, she couldn't try to pretend things were normal. She returned to Dan's office feeling shaken and scared.

Barbara Delinsky 62 "Will this be better tomorrow?" She was desperate for things to be back to normal. She liked her life, liked it just the way it had been. "I sure hope so," Dan answered, but in the next breath he introduced her to a large uniformed man. "This is Jimmy Finn. BPD, private duty. He'U see you get home okay." Her heart sank. "They re still out there?" - ' v« "Still out there," said the cop, without an r in the 'there.' ! > ' Jimmy Finn was a kind man, a devout Catholic who was deeply offended by the media spreading lies about his Cardinal. So he was predisposed to keep the reporters at bay, and burly enough to do it with ease. If he was rough shouldering his way through the crowd, he was nothing but gentle with Lily. He walked her to her building and saw her right to the door of her apartment, but the minute he left, she burst into tears. There were a slew of new telephone messages, a mixed bag. A few were from friends and were uniformly supportive, but they were overshadowed by those from the media, quickly erased, not so quickly forgotten. She slept only in fits and starts through the night and woke up to a dreary day, but she refused to let her mood match it, refused to even look out the window to see whether television vans were still there. She showered, dressed in dark slacks and a sedate blouse so that she wouldn't feel so exposed. Then she forced down a banana for breakfast, all the while telling herself that things had to get better. Either there would be a retraction in today's paper or there would be nothing at all. In any case, the story was on its way to dead. When someone knocked on her door shortly after eight, she tensed. She waited through a second knock, then crept softly to the peephole. Relieved, she opened the door. "I knew you hadn't left," Elizabeth Davis said straight out. She wore a T-shirt over biking shorts and had her blond hair bunched in a clip. "I wasn't sure you'd open up, though. How're you doing?" "Horrible," Lily said with a glance at the newpapers folded under Elizabeth's arm. "Are those today's?" "Two Boston, one New York. Want to see?" "You tell me." She wrapped her arms around her middle. "I'm hoping for a retraction."

LAKE NE WS 63 "You didn't get one," Elizabeth warned. Unfolding the papers, she tossed them on the table one by one. "The Post reports that you drive a BMW and bought a slew of expensive furniture when you moved here. City side reports that you're big into Victoria's Secret shopping. New York reports that you favor upscale restaurants like Biba and Mistral, and that you spent a week last winter at a posh resort in Aruba that you couldn't possibly have afforded on your own." Lily was too stunned to be angry. "How do they know all that?" "Any computer buff can get the information in five minutes flat." "But that's personal stuff!" "Five minutes flat." "But that's me. My life. My private information. Where I shop is no one's business!" She had a chilling thought. "What else can they get?" "Most anything." Lily swallowed. She had to believe that some things were safe. Her mind began to spin. "I bought the BMW used, I paid off the furniture over two years' time, I mail-order more from L. L. Bean and J. Crew than Victoria's Secret, and I booked the place in Aruba on two days' notice through a travel clearinghouse. I'm being misrepresented. This isn't fair." But Elizabeth wasn't done. Holding up a hand, she crossed to the small radio on the counter by the stove. Within seconds, Justin Barr's arrogant tenor filled the room. "... an insult to Catholics everywhere! Why, this woman is an insult to people of every faith. Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, Jews-no matter the affiliation, we should all be thinking about the values we hold most dear, the people who embody them, and the ones who try to take them down. Is there any act of disrespect more blatantly offensive than smearing the good name of a beloved leader?" "Me, smearing a nnn-name?" Lily cried. "No, my friends," Justin Barr ranted, "the question is how a woman like Lily Blake was able to get close enough to a man of the stature of Cardinal Rossetti to spread the stain, even indirectly, and now, Lord help us, she teaches our children. Where does it end? I have Mary from Bridgeport, Connecticut, on the line. Go ahead, Mary, you're on the air." Elizabeth turned off the radio. Lily was stricken. "I don't believe this."

Barbara Delinsky 64 "Justin Barr is right-wing." "Justin Barr is syndicated. That show goes up and down the East Coast." "Uh-huh." "Why?" Lily cried, referring not only to Justin Barr but to Terry Sullivan, Paul Rizzo, and all the rest who were keeping the story alive. "Why this? Why me?" "Because they smell weakness," Elizabeth said. "Wolves go after a wounded deer; it's the nature of the beast. You have to take a stand, Lily. A lawyer would be a great help." "I don't want a lawyer." "Then let me give it a try. I'll get dressed, the two of us will go down there, and I'll be your spokesperson. What do you say to that?" Lily didn't say a word. She stood silently while Elizabeth read a statement unequivocally denying her romantic involvement with either Governor Dean of New York or Cardinal Rossetti of Boston. The statement was simple. Elizabeth had advised her to tackle only the major allegations and leave minor misrepresentations alone for now, and much as Lily wanted to yell and scream in her own defense about the rest, she restrained herself. Public relations was Elizabeth's field. She was an experienced image shaper. Indeed, she coaxed and cajoled the media crowd into moving back and showing a little respect, and if she looked a bit too comfortable in her roll as spokesperson, a bit too pleased while working the crowd, Lily forgave her. Her own friends, mostly book people or music people, weren't equipped to help. Thanks to Elizabeth's prevailing upon the press, Lily was able to walk to school unmolested, thinking that maybe, just maybe the scandal had begun its retreat. Michael Eddy didn't think so. He knew exactly how much the school payed her and, even allowing for her work at the club, wanted to know how she could afford Aruba and a BMW. She told him how, as she had told Elizabeth, and when Peter Oliver asked about Victoria's Secret, she explained that she bought jeans there, not lingerie. When people stared passing her in the halls, she simply walked on. When faculty members left her sitting alone in the cafeteria, she read a book. She might have

r". LAKE NEWS 65 taken her frustration out on Mitch Rellejik, only he didn't come in until late. Midafternoon, as soon as she finished work, she left school, genuinely happy to be done for the day. She took heart when she saw that the press contingent remained lighter than it had been the day before, and once in her apartment, dared turn on the evening news. It was a mistake. The story was covered prominently on every channel, taking parts of the morning's stories and giving them lurid twists, and there were more photographs. In one she scowled at the camera. In another she hid her face. And then there were the glamour shots. Lily had classy publicity photos taken shortly after she arrived in Boston. She also had older ones that were beautiful and dignified. Naturally, the media didn't use those. They were painting a picture of a woman who lived above her means and paid for it by sleeping with powerful men. So they chose the most lurid shots they could find, from her earliest days in New York, in which the skimpy leotards she wore emphasized slim legs, narrow hips, and full breasts. She felt naked and exposed. She also felt furious-embarrassed-horrified! Worst, she didn't know what to do, and told Dan Curry as much when she arrived at the club. He gave her the name of a lawyer, which was small solace. More comforting, he had word from the Cardinal. "He's sick about this, Lily. We're all sitting around wondering whether the Pope will reverse his elevation, and the Cardinal is sitting around worrying about you. As far as he's concerned, you didn't ask for this, you don't deserve it, you're a victim caught in the line of fire. His lawyers have told him not to be in direct touch with you, but he doesn't like it." That was fine, she thought. Still, a call from him might have been nice. Even one made from a phone booth. Or a friend's telephone. Just to make her feel less alone. But she understood. He was in a bind. "He's thinking of you, Lily. He told me to tell you that he knows you have the strength to weather this and come out stronger and even more sure of yourself than before." Lily clung to those words through a difficult night of playing before an audience that stared and talked and crowded in on her. She went to bed

Barbara Delinsky 66 praying that this was the worst, and after an on-again, off-again sleep, woke up feeling tired and tense. She was listening to a ponderous Tchaikovsky piece that reflected her mood when a somber Elizabeth appeared at the door with the morning Post. The headline read, DETAILS EMERGE ON CARDINAL'S WOMAN . With a hard swallow, Lily took the paper, and at first there was nothing more than a recap of the allegations. Then, to her dismay, Terry Sullivan turned to Lake Henry. Blake comes from a well-to-do family in the small, north central town of Lake Henry, New Hampshire. Her father was a major landowner until his death three years ago. Her mother lives in the family's large stone farmhouse and oversees the hundreds of acres of apple orchards that make the family business one of the region's major producers of apple cider. The Post's Headline Team has I earned that Blake grew up with a severe stutter that kept her apart from other children. Lily sucked in a breath. Swallowing, she read on. She turned to singing as a means of communication. Experts on speech defects confirm that this is common. "Our casebooks are filled with examples of children who are unable to complete a spoken sentence, yet can sing an entire song without fault," said Susan Block, director of speech therapy in the Boston public schools. She also confirmed that severe speech defects may create emotional problems. In Blake's case, these took the fo rm of rebellion. When she was sixteen, she was involved in the corn mission of a felony. Apprehended and charged alongside a twenty-year-old accomplice, who spent six months in prison for the crime, Bla ke was put on probation. She cornpleted that sentence shortly before graduating from high school, and left town soon after. With a horrified cry, Lily dropped the paper. Devastated, she looked ait Elizabeth. She started to speak, but liad to take a calming breath before

¥ LAKE NEWS 67 the words would come out. "That file was sealed!" she finally said. "The judge told us no one would ever see it!" Elizabeth couldn't hide her curiosity. "What did you do?" What did she do? She'd been dumb, was what she did. She'd been dumb and young and dying to be popular. "The boy I was with stole a car. I didn't know it was stolen, and there I was, smiling and laughing, having the time of my life because Donny Kipling was so tough he was cool. I was sixteen. I hadn't ever been kissed. I had barely dated, so I went out with him in that car, and he just kept saying, 'Don't worry, this is fun,' but he told the police I planned it, and witnesses said I looked like I was really into it. There was no trial. The case was continued without a judgment, and when I finished my probation, the charges were dropped." Numb, she picked up the paper again. Blake rarely returned to Lake Henry after that. Sources who wish to remain anonymous have told the Post that she is estranged from her mother and her sister Rose. Another sister, Poppy, refused to comment on a recent conversation she held with Blake. "How did they know I talked to Poppy?" she asked. Then, furious, she remembered. "Someone listened in on my phone. I heard that click." "Wouldn't surprise me," Elizabeth said. "They'll do what they have to for a story." Hadn't Terry said as much? "But the judge sealed that file. How could they learn about it?" She felt violated and exposed. "Bribery." "That's not fair." , ;/v: -. Elizabeth was suddenly apologetic. "Neither is this. I have to cancel you out for the Kagan fund-raiser." Lily stared at her, stunned. "Campaign manager's orders," Elizabeth said, gesturing toward the newspaper. "He called when he saw this. It's too inflammatory. Your being there would be an event in itself. Distracting from the candidate." Lily knew there was more to it. "She doesn't want to be associated with me."

Barbara Delïnsky 68 •~ + "Don't take it personally. It's politics. One bad connection can ruin a candidate." "But I'm not a bad connection. The picture they've painted is false." Elizabeth sighed. "It really doesn't matter, y'know? The fact is that this is on the front page of every paper in the state. It'd be suicide for Kagan if you play at her event. I can't do it, Lily. I'm sorry." She backed toward the door as the phone rang. "Don't answer it," she warned as she left, "and don't turn on Justin Barr." Unbeknownst to Elizabeth, her instructions were connected, and remarkably prescient. But she wasn't there to hear what Lily heard on her machine, the pompous voice of a guy who thought he was bigger than big. "Lily? Are you there, Lily? This is Justin Barr, and we're on the air. My listeners want to hear your side of the story-" "They do not," Lily muttered and turned off the machine. She packed up for school, went down the back way, and ran off through the waiting crowd, wearing sunglasses so that no one would see if she cried-and if she did, it wouldn't be from fear or sadness. Her jaw was rigid. She was absolutely, positively furious. Michael Eddy was waiting for her at the large wooden door of the school. He let her in and held up a warning hand to the press, but the warning shifted her way when he said, "My office, please." Putting the sunglasses on her head, she followed him there. He didn't offer her a seat. She didn't take one. "I'm getting calls from parents and trustees," he said, with one hand on the back of a chair and the other at the nape of his neck. His eyes were accusing. "They want to know how we could hire someone with a criminal record to teach their children. I told them we didn't know. I want you to tell me why we didn't." Lilys heart was pounding so hard it practically shook her blouse. With what little breath was left, she said, "I don't have a criminal record. The case was dismissed. The file was sealed. I was told that that protected me." "Who told you that?" "My lawyer. The judge. It was very clear." "Didn't you think the parents here would care?"

LAKE NEWS 69 She thought about how to answer, but the longer she thought, the more angry she grew. "What's there to care about? I've told the truth. I was never convicted of anything." "Then why the probation? And why a sealed filed? You're teaching children here, Lily. You should have said something." She disagreed. But Michael wasn't in her shoes-and she wasn't in his. She looked at him, not knowing what to say. He sighed. "I hired you, and I'm the head, so I'm on the hot seat. I mean, hell, Justin Barr is making us look like fools. He's riling up the same people we solicit for the annual fund." His shoulders drooped. "I won't fire you. You've done too good a job. But I'm asking you to take a voluntary leave of absence." Her eyes went wide. She loved her work here, she needed the money, and she hadn't done anything wrong! Frightened, she asked, "For how long?" "I don't know." ; "Until this blows over? Until people forget?" > . "That may take a while." The way he said it, the way he stared at her without blinking, told her more. "A permanent leave of absence," she said, because the whole situation was so absurd, why not that? "An indefinite leave. Just until you find a job somewhere else." She stared right back, angry at him now and not caring that he knew. He could play with words all he wanted, but yes, he was firing her. She tried to see it from his side. All she saw was a man who didn't have the courage to stand up for someone he believed in. The bottom line, of course, was that he didn't believe in her. Fitting her sunglasses to her nose, she left the office. She refused to think about the a cappella groups that she had brought so far, refused to think about the soccer player who couldn't play the piano for beans but was learning something about music. She refused to think about the dozens of students she had taught and enjoyed in the last three years, and instead let her anger carry her to the front door; but sentimentality welled up anyway. It died the minute she saw reporters on the steps. They came to life, surging toward her as she walked. "Why are you leaving so soon?"

Barbara Delinsky 70 "How does the Winchester School stand on this matter?" "Have you been in touch with the board of trustees?" She tried to blot them out, but the questions were too close, too loud, too galling. "Is the stutter the reason you won't talk with us?" "Is it true that the New Hampshire charge was for grand theft?" "Were you having sex with your accomplice?" Revulsed, Lily shot a look at the man asking that question, wondering what hole he had slithered from. "That's disgusting," she murmured and walked quickly on, ignoring another round of questions until a familiar voice said, "Are you prepared to apologize to the parents of Winchester students? They feel deceived." It was bald-headed, baby-faced Paul Rizzo. She eyed him sharply. "How do you know?" "I've interviewed them. They're paying big bucks to educate their kids, and they think it's inappropriate for someone with your history to be teaching here. Would you comment on that?" She shook her head and returned to ignoring the questions, but she couldn't shake a sense of hurt. Yes, those parents were paying a lot of money, but if the point was a good education, she had delivered-and she hadn't been overpaid, that was for sure, not given her salary, not given the hours she put in. Those parents had a good deal. They should have known it, should have appreciated it, should have felt even a small measure of loyalty. Same with Michael. Same with the board of trustees. Besides, allegations were unproven charges. What about being innocent until proven guilty? By the time she got home, she was angry again. She let herself into the lobby, all but closing the door in the face of Paul Rizzo, who had been breathing down her neck. She strode to the elevator, pressed the button hard, and listened for the clank and whirr inside that would tell her it was on its way. When the sounds grew more distant, she looked at the panel. The elevator had risen to the top floor. Tony Cohn lived there along with five other tenants, but Murphy's Law said that he would be the one en route to the lobby, so she was prepared when the door finally opened.

LAKE NEWS He did a double take when he saw her, stepped out of the elevator, glanced at the front door, and swore. "Do you know what an imposition all this is?" he asked in a voice she had never heard. "I rent here for the prestige of it. Forget that now." She was so taken aback that she didn't think to stutter. "I didn't ask them to come." "No, but thanks to you they're here. Do you know that I've gotten calls? Phone calls? The Post, Cityside, even my own friends, wanting to know about you." He swore again, stepped back into the elevator, with her in it now, and punched the garage button before she could punch her own. She had no choice but to go down first. She retreated into a corner of the elevator, folded her arms on her chest, and wondered what she had ever seen in Tony Cohn. Scowling, he wasn't attractive at all-and he had never given her the time of day, not really. He snorted and said, "When I took this apartment I had the realtor check out the other tenants. The slate was supposed to be clean." "It is clean." Then it occurred to her that what he had just said was odd. "You checked out the other tenants? Why would you do that?" The door slid open. "Some of us have images to protect." He was out before she found a suitable retort, so she put a foot against the door to hold it open and called after him, "Only ones with their own secrets to hide!" She let the door close, jabbed at the button for her floor, and glowered as the elevator began its ascent, thinking that every cloud did have a silver lining, and that if nothing else, this fiasco had shown her what an arrogant, egocentric jerk Tony Cohn was. By the time she reached her floor she was regretting having wasted a single fantasy on the man. But she forgot about him completely when she opened the door to her apartment and heard the phone ringing. Dropping her briefcase, she gripped the back of the chair until the ringing stopped. She heard her own voice-then remembered that she had turned the machine off that morning. Ten consecutive rings would have turned it on again, which meant that she'd had at least one persistent caller. "Uh, yes," said a hungover-sounding male voice, "I'm calling for Lily Blake. I'm, uh, a writer. I ghostwrote the biography of Brandi Forrest, uh,

Barbara Delinsky j2 she's the lead singer with the rock group Dead Weight Off. Anyway, I'm sure you're getting lotsa other calls, but if you, uh, want someone to write your story, we should talk. I, uh, already called my publisher. They like the idea of sex and religion. They can get something out real fast. Uh. It s all in the timing. So if you want, call me." He left a number with an area code that she didn't recognize. Lily erased the message, then listened to those preceding it. Justin Barr must have been the persistent one, because his call came first. He called three additional times, at twenty-minute intervals. There were also calls from reporters in Chicago, St. Louis, and Los Angeles-all leaving names and numbers, as if she would really return their calls. There were messages from two friends expressing concern, and messages from two clients canceling engagements. There was also a message from Daniel Curry, asking her to call. His voice held an odd edge. Nervous, she punched out the number of the club. His greeting was gentle enough, but she heard that edge again. "Tell me," she said, steeling herself, and he sighed. "You know how I feel, Lily. I know nothing happened. I believe in both of you. I love both of you, so this tears me apart, but here's my problem. The phone has been ringing off the hook with complaints." "Complaints?" "We're completely booked for tonight, large tables, mostly sixes and eights." r ""'"Isn't that good?" "Not this time. Regulars can't get reservations. Others complained about having to wade through reporters last night. The thing is that these people are the backbone of the club. The ones booking large tables now are fly-by-nights. They aren't the ones who'll be coming weekly, six months or a year from now. They're just jumping on the scandal bandwagon, one member inviting five, six, seven friends for the show, but that's not fair to the faithful." Lily had a death grip on the phone. She knew what was coming. "I could take the easy way out," Dan said. "I could blame it on money and say that the regulars will defect and then where will we be-but they won't, Lily. It isn't a matter of financial survival. It's the principle of the

LAKE NEWS 73 thing. I've always'run the club a certain way. It's a quiet, private place. A classy place. That's why we loved having you play. Because you are classy." She waited. "But this whole business is sordid," he said. "Not a word of it is true, but it is sordid. Members are getting calls from the likes of Terry Sullivan and Paul Rizzo. Justin Barr is trashing us-not that we'd ever let that bastard step foot in the place, but he's creating a notoriety that we just don't need. Having people come to the club just to see-quote unquote-the woman who seduced the Cardinal, isn't what we're about." Lily remained silent, her head bowed. "This kills me," Dan went on, "because we all love you here." He sighed. "But I think you should take some time off." "Are you firing me?" Two firings in one hour would be a record. Maybe the papers would buy that. "No. I'm just telling you to stay home for a couple of days until this thing dies down." But she was discouraged. "Will it?" •, ; "Definitely. It's like a car. No fuel, no go." "There's never been fuel, but the car went! If they don't find it one place, they'll find it another." Exhausted, she ran a hand over her eyes. "Does this have to do with the felony thing?" "What felony thing?" ' "You haven't read today's paper?" "No." She told him so that he would know-so that he would hear her side of the story first. "The Cardinal knows all this," she said before he could ask. "Funny how conducive a clerical collar is to confession. He's off the hook now, but they're closing in on me." "Is there anything else they can find?" "Yesterday I wouldn't have said there was anything, period!" She sank into the chair. "That was my one and only brush with the law. There's been nothing since-not a speeding ticket, not a parking ticket, not even a late credit card payment. What's left for them to write?"

CHAPTER 5 i"b I }/^fî They wrote about Lily's suspension from the Winchester School I rf** -^ was front-page news on Friday morning. Terry Sullivan interviewed Michael Eddy, whose statements had enough force and indignation to restore his luster in the eyes of parents and trustees. Paul Rizzo focused on members of the board, with a long string of quotes expressing dismay at Lily's deceit, her immorality, and her lack of judgment. Justin Barr went wild about what he called the Lily Blake problem, inciting irate parents to call in discussing the teacher as a role model, the need for teachers of the utmost moral fiber, the responsibilities schools have to their students to protect them from those of poor character. The Post offered a token quote from one parent who praised the work Lily had done with his child, but that quote was short and lost amid the others, as were Lily's denials of wrongdoing. The overall tone of the piece was one of self-righteousness that had more to do with the Post patting itself on the back than with any quest for the truth. Both papers reported that Lily was taking time off from the Essex Club, but neither elaborated on that angle or gave related quotes. Lily suspected that Dan had refused to talk and that the print media, at least, was backing off from anything to do with the Cardinal. There was no further mention of an alleged affair, no further mention of shared smiles or late nights at the Cardinal's residence. Nor was there mention of Governor Dean. The focus was on Lily, and Lily alone. She had become the story. Another woman, one who loved the limelight, might have been

LAKE NEWS 75 pleased. But Lily had felt victimized before-as a child ridiculed for her stutter, as a teenager put on probation for a crime she didn't commit, as an entertainer losing a shot at the top after rebuffing the advances of the music director. Injustice happened. She should have been hardened to it. But she wasn't. She was so angry and upset that she couldn't play the piano, couldn't read, couldn't even play a CD, because nothing she owned was turbulent enough. She was so angry that she put aside her distaste for lawyers and called the one Dan had recommended. His name was Maxwell Funder. Articulate and experienced, he was among the most visible attorneys in the state. She had seen him on the news many times and, cynically perhaps, wondered if his promise to be at her apartment within the hour had to do primarily with the publicity attached to the case. But beggars couldn't be choosers. Given that she could only afford to pay him for a consultation, she was grateful when he agreed to come. In person, he wasn't nearly as impressive as the television cameras made him out to be. He was older. He was also shorter and broader, and without makeup, more mottled. But he was pleasant and patient. Sitting on the sofa, he listened while she vented. He frowned in dismay, widened his eyes in disbelief, shook his head from time to time-and she didn't care if he was pouring it on for her benefit. The sympathy felt good. "How can this happen?" she asked after working herself into a fury. "How can so many lies be printed? How can my whole life be put on display? How can sealed files be ««sealed? I've lost two jobs, the press sits outside waiting to pounce, Justin Barr is tearing me to shreds, my family is being hassled. When I think of going out, I think of being stared at by people / don't know who know personal things about me. I feel totally helpless. How do I make it stop?" The lawyer sat straighten "For starters, we can go to court, file papers, and initiate a suit. Tell me. Who's the worst?" "The Post, " she said without pause. Terry Sullivan had started it all. He had used her and lied. "The Post it is," Funder said. "Our suit will be the vehicle to get your side of the story out. We'll expose all the falsehoods. We'll get affidavits from the Cardinal and the governor corroborating your side of the issue. I

Barbara Delinsky j6 M** 4* I'll call a press conference and lay it all out"-his passion rose-"calling this the worst kind of shoddy journalism, the most reckless example of bad press. I'll demand an investigation of the Post for first printing this slander and demand an immediate retraction." Lily latched on to the last. "A retraction. That's what I want. Will I get it?" "Now?" The rhetoric cooled. "No. They're too far into this. They'll fight to defend the basic integrity of the paper. Maybe years down the road . . ." Years? "How many years?" He thought for a minute. "Realistically? From now to the time a jury hears the case? Three years. The thing is"-he raised a cautioning hand-"in order for you to be really vindicated, you need a big verdict. Token damages won't do. So we'll sue for, say, four million, but I have to warn you, the Post will fight hard. They'll fight dirty, and you'd better know right now what that means. They have on retainer some of the toughest First Amendment lawyers in the country. They'll put your life under a microscope, and they'll do it under oath. They'll take depositions of your family, your friends, schoolmates, teachers, boyfriends, exboyfriends, neighbors-and that's nothing compared to what their private investigators will do. They'll sift through your life with a fine-tooth comb. They'll get phone records, credit card records, school records, motor vehicle records, medical records. They'll interview people you didn't know you knew, looking for anything, even the tiniest little hint of something, that can help their client show that you're a disreputable person. That you have a history of being a disreputable person. If you think your privacy has been violated now, it's nothing compared to what they'll do." "Gee, thanks," Lily said. It was either sarcasm or tears. "Don't think I'm kidding," he warned, harder now. "I know these people. They're animals. If there's anything out there, they'll find it. They'll try to prove that your reputation is so bad that even if they made a mistake and libeled you, it doesn't matter, because no damage has been done. They'll try to prove that your life has been filled with lies." Lily was beginning to panic. "What about my rights? Why do they come last?" "They don't come last. But the First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech."

LAKE NE WS 77 "What guarantees do /have? The media has no right to do this to me." "That's why we sue." "All I want is a retraction. I don't want money." "Well, you ought to. This kind of case can cost upwards of a million dollars." She nearly choked. "Cost me a million dollars?" "Between legal fees, court costs, jury consultants, experts, private investigators." She felt weak in the knees. "I don't have that kind of money." "Few people do." He studied her, inhaled loudly, laced his fingers. "Look. I don't normally take cases unless the client has the full ability to pay-I mean, I have to live, too-but what's happening to you is a disgrace. So this is what I can do. I'll handle the case for two fifty, plus an additional fifty for expenses, plus twenty-five percent of what you recover." "Two fifty." "Two hundred and fifty thousand." She gulped in a breath that went down the wrong way. It was a long minute of pressing her chest and trying not to cough, before she was able to say, "I don't have that kind of mm-money." / • "Your family does." v , >. (;r; She drew back. < "I read there was a family business," he said. «; "It's a working business. There isn't cash lying around." "There's land. That would be good collateral for a loan." "I cant ask that," Lily said. Cash, a loan-it didn't matter. She couldn't ask her mother for money. Nor could she imagine Maida giving it. She was the greatest disappointment of Maida's life-the daughter who went bad, the one who played with fire and got burned. It didn't matter that Lily led a truly honest, upstanding life. Maida saw her through a different pair of eyes. The lawyer sat forward, hands still laced, a little too relaxed now, a little too slick. "I understand your hesitance-" "No, you don't," she interrupted angrily. "This is my life. I haven't taken a cent from my family since I was eighteen, and I won't do it now." "I understand your hesitance," he repeated in a tone-and with a look-that said she would be wise to let him finish, "but if family's good I I

Barbara Delinsky 78 for anything, it's for coming to the rescue in time of trouble. I oHid read that you don't get along with your family, but if they have money tthat can get you out of this mess, my advice is to take it. Good lawyers doni't come cheap. You won't get a better deal than the one I'm offering." But Lily couldn't ask her mother for money. And even if she lhad the money herself, she couldn't conceive of spending it all on this. She hadn't done anything wrong! Quietly she stood. "I need to think. Thank you for coming. I aippreciate your time." She headed for the door. He followed, but his face was more mottled when she turned to him next. "I won't offer this again," he warned. "If things heat up and get worse, I'll have to charge you more." She nodded her understanding. With one foot in the hall, he turned back, pleasant again. "No need to make a decision now. My offer stands for another day or two. Let me warn you, though. You'll get calls from other lawyers who'll offer to take the case on contingency alone, and it'll be mighty tempting for you to do that, but you won't get the quality. Given the out-of-pocket costs that a case like this will demand if it's done right, no good lawyer will work on contingency." "Thank you," she said again and, as soon as he withdrew his foot, closed the door. Lily went to the window to see if the lawyer would stop and talk to the press on his way out, but one of the horde spotted her first, and suddenly faces and cameras were all looking up. Jolted, she stepped quickly back and stood frozen in the middle of the floor, gazing blindly out across Commonwealth Avenue-until she realized, with horror, that a telephoto lens in a window of one of the buildings there could see her anywhere in her apartment. She quickly closed the blinds in the living room, ran, and did the same in the bedroom. That left her in a small dark apartment, with no job, no freedom, no prospects for a speedy return of either, much less her good name. She sat in the armchair, but still she couldn't concentrate to read. She moved to the piano and let her fingers roam the keys, but they picked out depressing tunes. So she put Beethoven on the CD player-

LAKE NEWS 7p somber perhaps, but appropriate-and she walked from bedroom to living room to bedroom and back, not knowing what to do with herself. She finally ended up at the phone. Lifting the receiver, she started to press in her mother's number, hung up, and tucked her arms to her chest so that she wouldn't try again-and it wasn't about money. She didn't want money, didn't want to sue, because the process Maxwell Funder described was heinous. Three years of media speculation, of stories twisting the facts of her life-three years of feeling used and exposed. She couldn't survive that. No. She wouldn't have called Maida for money. She would have liked to call for the comfort of it. Maida was her mother. Lily was feeling the need to bury her head somewhere warm and sympathetic until the storm passed. She was feeling the need for shelter, certainly for a compassionate ear. But Maida wouldn't give either. So Lily called Sara Markowitz instead. Sara was a friend from Juilliard who taught at the New England Conservatory. They met for lunch every few weeks. Sara's had been one of the messages left on the answering machine. She felt instant relief when Sara picked up the phone, all the more so that despite the bad press, Sara was avid in support. "I've been so worried. What is this mishegaas? False charges-a total twisting of the truth-it's way out of control. They're even calling me, would you believe, asking intimate questions, not taking no for an answer, pushing and pushing. What's with Terry Sullivan? Where does reporter stop and gossipmonger begin? And Justin Barr? He's worse! Neither one has a clue about what it means to be a mensch. Did you know either of them before this began?" "Justin Barr, absolutely not." "Good. He's a hypocritical idiot. He was too ugly to make it on TV with his fat face and beady eyes, so he turned to radio. He just loves to hear himself talk-the Champion of Home and Hearth-but what's with Sullivan?" "He'd been after me to do an interview about my work. I kept refusing him, so maybe he's annoyed." It hit her then. "He didn't want to know about my work. It must have been about the Cardinal all along." Feeling doubly used, she dragged in a breath. "My life is falling apart, I don't know why, and I'm stuck in this apartment with nowhere to go."

Barbara Delinsky 80 "Meet me at Biba-uh, no." Lily knew why Sara caught herself. Biba was one of the restaurants the papers had mentioned as an example of Lily living high off the hog. She and Sara often had salads there, which made it a fun, low-cost treat. But not fun anymore. Not fun ever again. Wisely, Sara said, "Stephanie's in thirty minutes?" Stephanie s was a restaurant on Newbury Street. Lily didn't know anyone there. It sounded like heaven. "Thirty minutes is great." She put on jeans, a blouse, and a blazer. Tucking her hair under a baseball cap, she put on dark glasses, took the elevator to the garage, and hit daylight at a brisk walk, looking as nonchalant and anonymous as she could. The press spotted her instantly. Reporters swarmed from behind trash cans, telephone poles, and parked cars, shoving microphones in her face, yeËing to get her attention. "Ms. Blake! Ms. Blake! Where are you going?" "What did Funder say?" ; • o "CNN here-can you confirm that Funder is representing you?" ! ' "Are you suing the Winchester School?" ; • Staring straight ahead, she continued on up the alley, but reporters tripped over one another in an effort to get questions in, the pack growing with each step. She could feel and smell its heat and hustle, waves of "ilôt breath, stale body scent. Even if she hadn't been shorter and more slight than almost every reporter there, she would have been frightened by the sheer mass. "Are you looking for work?" "What about the felony conviction?" "Is the Essex Club still paying you?" < When she turned onto Fairfield, she collided with reporters coming around the block on the run from the front of her building. She couldn't continue forward without shoving bodies and equipment out of the way, but she wasn't physically strong enough for that, and when she looked back, they were a solid block there, too. She imagined them closing in and crushing her.

LAKE NEWS 81 "Is it true you slept with Michael Crawford-" "-that you were a go-go dancer in Times Square-" "Justin Barr said-" "-apologize to the Cardinal?" The questions came fast, overlapping and rising in pitch until she was on the verge of panic. She saw it all then, saw herself fighting her way down Newbury Street and trying to have lunch with Sara with the press hovering and interrupting and disrupting the entire restaurant. And she couldn't do it-not to Sara, not to those others, not to herself. The whole point had been to have time alone with a friend. Whirring around, she swung her arms out in anger until there was a semblance of a path, and barged back down the alley. For an instant, when she used her key to open the door beside the garage, she feared they would push their way in, but she was able to slip through and close the door behind her-close it tight and then stand on tiptoe and peer through a small, dirty window on the top of it in time to see the vultures, looking deflated, back off and turn away. Safe now, she shook with fury. Storming through the garage, she took the elevator to her floor, ran into her apartment, lifted the phone, and called Stephanie's. It was all she could do to keep her voice calm when she said, "My name is Lily. I'm supposed to be meeting a woman named Sara, about five-six, curly brown hair, gill-lasses. Can you tell me if she's there yet?" According to the hostess, Sara wasn't. "Well, she'll be getting there any minute. Will you have her call Lily?" Two minutes later, the phone rang. "God, Sara, I'm sorry," she said without introduction. "I can't get there, they won't let me through. They crowded me all the way down the back alley, so I turned around and came back. It'd be an obscenity leading them to that restaurant, and we wouldn't have any privacy at all. I'm so sorry to have dragged you there." "Who's Sara?" asked a nasal male voice. "Who's Ms?" she asked, appalled. "Tom Hardwick. I been reading about you in the paper, and, y'know, it seems to me that since you can't see the Cardinal anymore, you may be, y'know, on the prowl, y'know? That was a neat picture in Cityside. Real sexy. I been with someone but we just broke up, so, y'know, I'm

Barbara Delinsky 82 thinking I'm free and you're free. Got your number from my sister. She's your doctor's receptionist. I'm only twenty-three, but I love older women-" Lily hung up. Nauseated, she stared at the phone, praying that he wouldn't call back, thinking that he wouldn't have the gall to call back. But he'd had the gall to call the first time, so she didn't know what to expect now, and besides, her sense of expectation had been shattered in the last few days. Anything could happen. Absolutely anything. She was as poor a judge of people now as she had been at sixteen, out joyriding with Donny Kipling-she'd certainly shown that. The phone rang once, twice, three times. The machine came on. When her own greeting was done, she heard Sara's higher-than-usual voice. "Lily? What's happened?" Relieved, Lily picked up the phone and told her. As she talked, the reality of the situation sank in. "I'm a prisoner here," she concluded, dazed. "A prisoner." "Then I'll come over," Sara offered. "We'll talk there." But Lily had to think about being a prisoner. She had to think about what to do next and how, and she had to do it alone. So she thanked Sara, promised to call her soon, and hung up the phone. She spent the rest of the day wandering around the tiny apartment, letting strains of a strident Wagner drown out the ringing of the phone, feeling alternately caged, terrified, and numb. Also utterly powerless. And angry. Very, very angry. Angry at Terry Sullivan, Paul Rizzo, and Justin Barr for playing with her life. Angry at the Post, Cityside, and WROT-AM for allowing it. Angry, even, at the Cardinal for freeing himself from the mess but leaving her in it up to her ears. She couldn't stay in Boston. That much was clear. Even if the story died the next day, she would be stared at for months. She couldn't bear that-couldn't bear knowing that millions of strangers knew private details of her life, couldn't bear being fodder for talk shows, couldn't bear the humiliation or the sense of injustice. And then there was the issue of a job. Who would hire a woman with the morals of a snake? No one offering the kind of work she wanted, that was for sure. Her college roommate lived in San Francisco. They talked several

LAKE NEWS 83 times a year, but Debbie had a husband and three kids. Lily was afraid to call her now, much less show up on her doorstep, lest the media lunge at new bait. Same with friends in New York and Albany. Lily was afraid of tainting their lives. If she couldn't stay with a friend, she would need an apartment, but without income? What she had in the bank was finite. It wouldn't last long if she couldn't get work. She could cut her hair short, dye it blond, and go somewhere new. She could waitress. She had put herself through college waitressing. She could do it again. But without knowing a soul? Having to use a phony name and lie to every person she met? That was no life. What she wanted most was justice, but she didn't see it coming in the next day or two. Second to that, what she wanted was to dig a hole and climb in. She was tired of reporters and cameramen. She was tired of being a spectacle. She wanted silence, and privacy. She wanted to become invisible. But human beings didn't dig holes and climb in. They went to places where they could hide, places like Lake Henry. Not Lake Henry, she protested; but the idea stuck in her mind like a burr. She had a place to live there. She owned it free and clear. It had been a bequest from her grandmother, a small place on the lake that was separated from the world by a long dirt road and acres of trees. Not Lake Henry, she cried; but it was as close to a hole in the ground as she was apt to find. It was familiar. Her cottage was well stocked. She paid a local woman to clean it each month, and she stayed there whenever she was home. Maida wouldn't be happy. She wouldn't want Lily there, wouldn't want the scandal so close to home, but what choice did Lily have? Of her options, hiding out at the lake made the most sense. She could think there. She could monitor the media frenzy, and decide whether to fight it and how. She could breathe fresh air there. She could spend time with Poppy. The phone rang. She turned and stared at it. Feeling a startling longing, she imagined it was Maida telling her yes, to go to the cottage. She imagined Maida bringing over her specialty, a steaming pot roast that was slow cooked and savory with bay leaves and sage, along with fresh mushrooms and carrots and a slew of the tiny red potatoes that Maida's friend Mary Joan Sweet grew in her garden. She imagined Maida feeling

Barbara Delinsky 84 so terrible when she learned the truth about the scandal that she would insist Lily stay at the big house. She imagined that they would talk, cry, become friends. Dreams. Lily sighed. Just dreams. So she didn't answer the phone, and listening to the message, she was glad. This one, like others earlier, was from no one she wanted to know. She had given up wondering how her phone number had spread. "Unlisted" seemed to have gone the way of "civil rights." She could call the phone company to protest, but to what end? She could curse Mitch for giving her number to Terry, and Terry for giving it to whoever else, but that was like trying to close the door when the horse was already out of the barn. Besides, she was leaving. In another day she wouldn't hear this phone. She wouldn't shower in her beautiful glassed-in shower, walk through the Public Garden to school, or sing her heart out to people who loved her voice. She wouldn't do any of those things, because Terry Sullivan, Paul Rizzo, and Justin Barr had taken away her life. Pacing the floor as the day wore on and the minutes crept by more and more slowly, she felt a raw fury toward all three. There were moments of wavering, moments when she reversed herself and vowed, on principle alone, not to leave town, but that bravado inevitably passed, leaving the stark truth. She couldn't work, because she had no job. She couldn't see friends, get fresh air, or buy food, because she couldn't leave her apartment-and even if the press weren't waiting to tail her wherever she went, going out, for her, now, in this town, meant embarrassment and acute self-consciousness. It wasn't fair. She wanted justice. But she couldn't initiate a lawsuit because she didn't have the money. Nor did she have the heart to launch a three-year war. Certainly not the kind Maxwell Funder described. The only thing she had the heart for just then was escape. She'd had it with feeling out of control. She needed to take back her life-some life, any life. For that, she needed sleep. She needed freedom. She needed counsel, and if the spirit of her grandmother was the only counsel around, that was fine. Celia St. Marie had been a saint. She would know what to do next. She would know how to search for justice. I

LAKE NEWS 85 n When darkness fell, Lily packed up the car, locked the doors, and left the garage. She fully expected a few diehards to be left outside, even one or two following in a car, but she figured she would lose them once she hit the Pike. Indeed, figures emerged from dark shadows, hoisting equipment, shouting questions, motioning her to roll down her window, as she started down the alley; and, yes, a pair of headlights fell in behind her. What she hadn't expected, though, were others that came on the instant she turned left onto Gloucester. Rechecking her door lock, she made a fast right onto Newbury. To her horror, a large satellite van parked at the corner revved up and joined the chase. She sped up in an attempt to bury herself in traffic, but the street was too narrow. Her chasers easily kept pace. Hoping to shake them, she veered right at Hereford, then right again-through a yellow lightonto Commonwealth. She thought that her tail would be stuck at the red. But the big van sailed through it. By the time another red light stopped her, when she was waiting to turn left on Fairfield and head to the Pike that way, not only was the big van on her bumper, but a motorcyclist with a press pass around his neck started knocking on her window. When the light turned green, she gunned the gas and, if she hadn't immediately slammed the brakes back on, would have hit a reporter who was rounding the front of the car to get to the driver's side. Deeply shaken, she revised her plan. Driving slowly and carefully, she went all the way around the block until she reached the opposite end of the alley from the one she had left minutes before. She inched her way down the narrow stretch and turned in at her building. When she lowered her window to key open the garage door, the motorcyclist came up close and pulled off his helmet. The security light triggered by her approach gleamed off the bald head of none other than Paul Rizzo. "I can guarantee you safe passage," he said, "if you give me an exclusive on where you were going and why." Lily was incensed. "No exclusive. I'm going into thhhh-is garage"- she fought the stutter for all she was worth-"and it is private property. If you come in while this door's open, I'm callll-ling the police." She turned the key and quickly rolled up her window. As soon as the garage door was high enough, she rolled forward, but she stopped the car the in-

Barbara Delinsky 86 stant it cleared the door and turned to see whether anyone would come inside. She didn't see anyone. The door closed. She drove on to her parking space. For a time, she just sat. She didn't try to leave the car, didn't even unlock the door. She waited for someone to approach her, someone who may have slipped inside without her seeing. When no one came, she turned and looked around. Granted, cars were perfect things to hide behind, and the garage was full of them, but she didn't see a soul. She got out of the car, loaded her arms with as much as she could carry, and took the elevator to the fourth floor. Rather than going to her own apartment, though, she went to Elizabeth's. When Elizabeth didn't answer the door, she slid down and sat on the floor with her back to the wall. It was nine. She didn't know when Elizabeth would show up, but she could wait. She had nothing better to do. Nine became ten, and she actually put her head on her duffel bag and dozed off. She had barely slept for three nights and was exhausted. But she came awake at the touch of a hand. "Why are you out here?" Elizabeth asked. Immediately cogent, Lily sat up. "I need your help." She explained what had happened with the car. "I can't stay here, Elizabeth, and the problem isn't just a small dark apartment. It's the whole thing. There's no point in my being here. The media won't let this die. The problem is how ^** ** to get out without their following." Elizabeth tipped up her chin. "I know how." Lily held her gaze. "So do I. Will you do it?" Actually, they had two different plans. Lily's plan was for Elizabeth to smuggle her out in her luxury SUV, then take a cab back into Boston and use Lily's BMW for the day or two it took until Lily could arrange to return the Lexus. Elizabeth's plan started out the same way but involved dropping Lily at the nondescript Ford wagon that Elizabeth's brother Doug had left sitting in his Cambridge garage while he was teaching in Brussels for the year. Since Elizabeth's plan allowed more flexibility as to when and how Lily returned the borrowed car, they chose that one, and it went off with-

LAKE NEWS 87 out a hitch. Lily and her belongings successfully hid under piles of Kagan for Governor banners in the back of the Lexus, and even Lily saw the poetry in that. She wondered if Elizabeth was carrying it too far, though, when she stopped to chide the two reporters who were doing the graveyard shift in the alley. Did they really think Lily would be leaving this late? Elizabeth asked with audible wryness. For what? A late-night rendezvous with the Cardinal? Puleeze. Wasn't it time they gave the poor woman a break? And where was she going? For drinks at the Lennox Lounge. Did they want to come? They ought to. It would be her treat. Lily nearly died at the last, but Elizabeth knew what she was doing. The reporters wouldn't take her up on the invitation. They thought it was a setup to lure them away so that their quarry could escape. "You can't fool us," one said, and that was that. Elizabeth drove off down the alley and around the block, heading toward Cambridge free and clear. When they reached Doug's house, she pulled right up to the garage and killed the lights. "It's battered but trusty," she said as they stowed Lily's things in the wagon. "Here's the trick. Step on the gas twice-pause-then once more, then turn the key. Works every time." Lily couldn't afford to be fussy. Sliding behind the wheel, she took a minute to see where everything was, then rolled down the window, pumped the gas twice, paused, then once more, and turned the key. Her heart tripped when the engine sputtered, but it started up in the next breath and purred a little noisily, but purred nonetheless. "You're the best," she told Elizabeth byway of thanks. Elizabeth was leaning down at the window. "Nah. If I was, I'd have insisted they keep you on for the Kagan event. Or I'd have let you take my Lexus." She patted the old wagon. "This is no skin off my back. Want me to get your mail or anything?" "Actually, I would." Lily took her mailbox key from her key ring and handed it over. "Where should I send it?" "Just hold it." "Where will you be?" She wasn't sure she should say. It wasn't that she didn't trust Eliza-

Barbara Delinsky 88 beth-yes, actually it was, which was another thing she despised Terry Sullivan for. He had taught her that unless she knew someone very, very well, she had to be on her guard. So she simply smiled. "I'll let you know." She rolled up the window and waved as Elizabeth stepped away. Backing out of the driveway, she shifted into drive, put on the headlights, and set off. The trip took two hours. Lily spent the first hour watching her rearview mirror to see if she was being followed. Supercautious, she even left the highway once, reversed direction, went back an exit, reversed direction again, and continued on north. But no car followed. She had escaped. She had one-upped the press in a small victory, made large by the context in which it occurred. The pleasure of it carried her into the second hour, across the Massachusetts border into New Hampshire, and steadily north, but thirty minutes shy of Lake Henry, ebullience gave way to qualms. She wondered if she was trading one set of problems for another, jumping from the frying pan into the fire-and that totally apart from the possibility that the press might yet find her here. If that happened, she had no idea what she would do, what the townsfolk would do, what her mother would do. But she was committed. She checked her rearview mirror when she left the highway, and again when she drove through the center of Lake Henp#but everything was dark, closed up tight for the night, and no car followed, not then or when she turned off Main Street onto the road that circled the lake. Bumping around familiar curves, with an evergreen scent seeping into the car, she felt a mellowness that the lake always brought. Oh yes, there were qualms, but they had to do with people. Not with the lake. Never with the lake. She turned off the loop road onto a narrower one that led to the shore at Thissen Cove. Several hundred feet from the water, she turned again, this time onto a rutted dirt path. Following it to its end, she killed the engine, then the lights. A first glance, the lake was pitch black. Gradually her eyes adjusted to the absence of headlights, and she began to make out things. The cottage

LAKE NEWS 89 was a small structure of wood and stone on her left. On her right, tall trees were dark silhouettes against a sky that was only a tad less dark. Slipping silently from the car, she stood and inhaled. The woods smelled of pine, of dried leaves, of moss-covered rocks and logs burning in a neighbor's woodstove. They were smells common to Lake Henry in fall, but in Lily they conjured up childhood images, good images involving her grandmother. She crossed the small clearing between cottage and lake, walking over pine needles that had been years gathering and gnarled tree roots that had been decades growing. Down a short stairway of railroad ties and she reached the water's edge. The lake was stiE. She listened to the soft slap of water against shore, the faint crinkle of fall foliage in the night breeze, the distant sound of a barn owl. She made out layers of clouds in the sky, but as she watched they broke open to patches of stars and, minutes later, a crescent moon-and then-and then came the deep, hauntingly melodic tremolo of a loon. She was being welcomed home. She felt it as clearly as she felt her grandmother's presence, and suddenly the contrast between the hell she had left and the beauty of this cottage, this lake, this town was so stark and heartfelt that she knew she was right to come. Feeling stronger than she had at any time since before reading the Boston Post on Tuesday, she returned to the car, pulled the key to the cottage from her purse, climbed the steps to the old wood porch, and let herself in the door. John Kipling sat utterly still in his canoe. The same something that had kept him from sleep had drawn him here in the wee hours, to the shadow of Elbow Island, opposite Thissen Cove. Call it instinct, a hunch, or a sheer lucky guess. Lucky? Hell, no. It was common sense. If her life in the city had become the hell he imagined, where else could she go? Still, he didn't know for sure until the light went on in the house, but there it was. He whispered a satisfied "Yesssss." When a soft yodel came in response, he smiled. Only male loons yodeled. This one wasn't from the pair he called his own, but, man to man, it understood the satisfaction he felt. He had read the Post story and

Barbara Delinsky 90 knew firsthand how deceitful Terry Sullivan could be. He had talked with Poppy, who was dismayed at what her sister was enduring, and had talked with townsfolk, who had differing opinions on the matter. He wondered what the truth was. It was the journalist in his blood. Now that Lily Blake was back in town, right here on his turf, he could pursue it. Smiling in anticipation, he drew his paddle through the water and headed home. t:, .'--I* ** by trees, and on its own little patch of the lake, but that was where the similarities ended. Poppy's land was on the west shore rather than the east, a wedge shaved off the end of her parents' property and given as a gift to her after the accident, in the hopes of keeping her close to home. Poppy had acceded to that, but she refused to allow the direct road that Maida and George would have cut through the property from their house to hers. So the only access was off the main road, on a road that was narrow but paved. The cottage itself comprised three connected wings on a single level. The left wing housed the bedroom, the right housed the kitchen and a weight room, but Poppy spent most of her time in the center wing. It held an arc of desks facing windows on the lake. On one end was a computer, on the other an open writing space. In the middle, with a picture-perfect view of the dock, the lake, and the fall foliage, were the multiple banks of buttons connected to the telephone that was Poppy's stock in trade. "Boudreau residence," she said into her headset in response to a blinking light. "Poppy, it's Vivie." Vivian Abbott, the town clerk. "Where are the Boudreaus?" "On their way to see you," Poppy told her. "Not there yet?" "No, and I'm leaving in two minutes. If they don't get here before then, they'll have to register to vote next Saturday. Nine to eleven, that's what I

Barbara Delinsky iio told them. Oh, wait! Here they are! Thanks, Poppy!" As fast as that she was gone, and another light began to blink. "Historical Society," Poppy said. "Edgar Cook here. My Peggy wants to know how late the sale's running." "Till four." "Hah. That's what I told her, only she didn't believe me. Thanks, Poppy." "You're welcome." Another light blinked, this one on the main telephone unit, her own private line. "Hello?" she said, still smiling at Edgar. "Is this Poppy Blake?" Her smile faded. She recognized the voice. "That depends." Terry Sullivan made a sound that might have been a chuckle if it hadn't been so tight. "I recognize your voice by now, too, love. Is your sister around?" he asked nonchalantly. Like Lily was right there-which she wasn't. Like Poppy would put her on if she was-which she wouldn't. Like Poppy even knew where she was-which she didn't, at least not for sure. "Is she?" Poppy asked right back. "I asked first." "But you're the smart one. Par's / know, she's in Boston." The words were barely out when she knew better-because, physical resemblance notwithstanding, there was no way that the slight figure who had suddenly appeared on her deck, dressed in a baseball cap, an old plaid hunting jacket, baggy shorts, and high-top sneakers, was the very dead Celia St. Marie. Poppy sat higher and vigorously waved Lily inside. "She tried to leave last night," Terry said. "Didn't make it. Or let us think that. I'm just trying to imagine what I'd do if I were in her shoes." When Lily didn't move, Poppy waved with both arms and jabbed a finger in the direction of the deck door. Into the speaker at her mouth, she said, "And you imagined she'd come here? Why would she do that?" "By default." "What default?" She put a finger to her lips. Lily very quietly opened the door. "Where else would she go?"

LAKE NEWS "Manhattan? Albany? / don't know," Poppy said, but her bewilderment ended at her voice. Grinning, she held out an arm to Lily and gave her a tight hug. "Would you tell me if she was there?" Terry asked. "I wouldn't have to." She mouthed his name to Lily, whose eyes registered instant horror. To Terry, she said, "You'd hear it in my voice. We're not good liars up here. It goes against the grain." "I'm watching her friends in Manhattan. NYU, Juilliard-I have lists. She's not there." "Did you check her theater friends? She was on Broadway with people from all over the country. If I was in her shoes," she echoed his words, "I'd be with one of them." "Is that a lead?" ; "No. I don't have names." . • "Would you give them to me if you did?" "NO." , .-,:."Would you let me know if she shows up there?" i ' "No." •"..-.- • That hard little chuckle came again. "That's my girl." > • ' . "Not-on-your-life," Poppy vowed, and with the sweep of a finger disconnected the call. The other arm still held Lily. She grinned broadly. "I had a hunch," she said, hugging Lily with both arms again, but she didn't like what she felt. Poppy had always thought of Lily as vulnerable, even fragile, though she realized she never saw her at the best of timesLily was understandably tense whenever she returned to Lake Henry. But the fragility was tactile now. Lily was thinner than Poppy remembered, and shaky. Holding her back, Poppy saw smudges under her eyes that hadn't been there when they had seen each other last, at Easter, five months before. "You don't look so good," Poppy said. "Beautiful"-which was the truth-"but tired." Lily's eyes filled with tears. Poppy pulled her close again and held her longer this time, thinking that "beautiful" was an understatement. On paper, Poppy and Lily looked very much alike-same dark hair, same oval face, same slender buildbut Poppy was the best buddy, Lily the siren. Maybe it was the breasts I

Barbara Delinsky 112 that did it. Lily was more endowed there, but she was also quieter, more dignified, more mysterious. People knew where they stood with Poppy. With Lily they were never quite sure. That element of mystery added to her allure. Poppy had spent a childhood following Lily around, suffering when Lily stuttered, taking pride when she sang. She hadn't always agreed with what Lily had done-going with Donny Kipling had been just plain dumb-but she knew for a fact that Lily didn't have a mean bone in her body. She hadn't asked for a stutter, or for the impossible standards that Maida set for her firstborn. There was something inherently unfair about Lily's lot in life, and the unfairness kept right on going. Lily seemed to underscore that thought with an uneven intake of breath. The stricken look she gave Poppy when she drew back added to it. "How'd you get away?" Poppy asked. "A friend, a borrowed car. Does Terry think I'm here?" "Not yet." "They'll come," Lily said, looking haunted. "Sooner or later." "Sooner," Poppy said. She hated to make things worse, but Lily needed to know. "Camera crews have already come through. A few reporters." Lily sank into a chair. "Asking questions?" "Trying to. No one's talking." "They will. Sooner or later. Someone'U offer money. Someone'll take it." She clasped her hands, clamped them between her thighs, and rocked back and forth. "John Kipling saw my lights last night. He pulled up at the dock this morning. He says he won't teU anyone. Can I believe him?" Poppy liked John. She knew about the troublemaker he'd been growing up and about the ruthless journalist he'd been in Boston, but she hadn't known him personally until he returned to Lake Henry. In those three years, she had seen nothing but decency in the man. "I'd believe him, if it were me. Besides, what's your choice?" "I don't have one. They'll follow me wherever I go. At least here I have a place to stay. What do I do about Stella? She'U be over to check the cottage next week." TU handle Stella." "The cottage is a haven. I can feel Celia there."

LAKE NEWS 113 Poppy nodded. She glanced at the cap, the jacket, the sneakers, all so very Celia. Lily looked down at herself. "I didn't bring much. Didn't know how long I'd be here." She raised bleak eyes. "John told me about today's paper. They're still at it, Poppy. They're not stopping at anything. I feel powerless. It's like I have no rights." "You do. That's what we have courts for. You need to talk with a lawyer." "Obviously, you haven't seen today's paper. I did talk with a lawyer." "And? Doesn't he agree that you have a case for libel?" "Yes, but the problem is the process. It'll drag the whole thing out. It'll get worse before it gets better, and it'll cost a fortune." Lily's expression turned wry. "He told me to borrow money from Mom." Poppy might have shared the wryness, if she hadn't been flooded with guilt. Maida had given her so much-land, the house, a van equipped with everything she needed to get in and out and drive herself aroundand she was always sending over clothes, flowers, and more food than Poppy could eat. Poppy's problems were physical. Maida could deal with physical things. Emotions were something else. Lily pulled off the cap and shook out her hair. She frowned at the bill of the cap. "Is she ss-still angry?" Poppy's heart broke at the stutter. It came out now only at times of stress, but she remembered when it was virtually a constant thing, with facial contortions that were painful to watch. She couldn't begin to imagine the pain Lily had felt as the one actually doing it in front of friends, schoolmates, boys. Poppy knew what it was to have people stare, but she was an adult. Lily had been a child, not only stared at but mocked. Maida might have helped, but she had always seemed paralyzed where Lily was concerned. And Lily? God bless her, she came home for holidays and special events, always hoping it would change. Poppy wasn't sure that it would. Maida was a difficult woman, and not only toward Lily. She was hard on the orchard crew, hard on the cider crew. She had even grown hard on Rose. Had Poppy had the use of her legs, and the height and physical stature to confront Maida, she would have shaken a little common sense into the woman. ,;.:>

Barbara D e I i n s ky 114 "I haven't talked with her since yesterday," she said now. "Be grateful it's harvest time. She's preoccupied with work. Are you going over there?" Lily looked at the lake. "I haven't decided. Think I should?" "Only if you're a glutton for punishment." '• Lily's eyes found hers, beseeching now. "Maybe if I explain it to hertell her my side of the story." Poppy wished it was that simple. Maida was a complex woman, layers and layers of emotions fifty-seven years in the building. "But what if she hears it from someone else? She'll be hurt." "I won't tell," Poppy promised. "But John said people would find out-see lights or wood smokeand he's right." She glanced at the bank of telephone buttons. "Tell me they're not all talking about me." "I can't. It's news. But don't assume that they're critical of you. They're refusing to talk with the press." "John is press. They're talking with him." She let out a breath, looking close to tears again. "I thought I could come here and be invisible for a while. Until I see what happens in Boston. Until I decide what to do. But now he knows I'm here." "If he said he won't tell, he won't," Poppy assured her. "Why not? What's in it for him?" "Self-respect." "He brought groceries." , "A peace offering?" "Or a Trojan horse." That gave Poppy pause. "You never used to be cynical." Lily pushed a hand through her hair. "Funny how fast things change." Poppy wanted to hug her sister again, but Lily seemed isolated, separate. The best Poppy could do was to say, "Lily, you can't leave. This is the safest place there is for you right now." "Maybe. I'll stay near the cottage, I guess. See how things play out." "Stay here," Poppy suggested, loving the idea, but Lily sighed and shook her head. "No. The cottage is mine. Everything else has been taken away. I need that." "Is there anything I can do?"

LAKE NEWS 7/5 Lily's expression was suddenly pointed. "More of what you did just now when Terry called. Let him try to locate all the people who were in shows I was in. I don't even remember their names." "Do you want me to call Mom?" "No." When a light on the bank of phones blinked, Poppy adjusted her mouthpiece. "Lake Henry Police Department. This call is being recorded." "This is Harvey Ellman. I'm researching an article for Newsweek and need information on Lily Blake's criminal record. Can you fax me a rap sheet?" Poppy held her sister's eyes. "Lily Blake has no criminal record." "There was a conviction for grand theft." "No. No conviction. The case was continued, then dropped." "That wasn't what I was told." ••>.'' ""You were told wrong." ' « - < '••• "Who arejyowP'the man asked impatiently. "I'm the dispatch officer, and I know what I'm talking about. You're not the first one calling about this." "I'd like to talk with the police chief." "Sorry. It's me or no one. For the record, again, you are Harvey Cellman-" "Ellman." Poppy spelled it out. "With Newsweek. Good. I'll tell the chief why you called." She grinned at Lily. "We have a recording of this conversation, but I'll keep your name handy so we'll know who to blame if the facts in your article are wrong. You see, Lily Blake is well liked in this town. If you print lies, we'll have to call you on it. And we have a forum to do it, what with other press people calling. I mean, we have to protect our own tails here, don't we?" Lily left Poppy's feeling marginally better. Poppy was a powerful ally. She answered phones for the most influential residents of Lake Henry, which put her in a position to lobby on Lily's behalf. She also had insisted that Lily take her cellular phone, since there was no active line in Celia's place.

Barbara Delinsky ii6 Wearing the baseball cap and sunglasses again, Lily drove the borrowed wagon back to Celia's the same way she had come-around the opposite end of the lake from the center of town. Lake Henry noticed strangers. Granted, there were other cars with Massachusetts plates passing through-leaf peepers looking for foliage, newspaper people looking for dirt-but she suspected that people in town were starting to wonder if she would return. The less she tempted them with a familiar nose and chin, the better. She held her breath when she turned onto the road to Thissen Cove, half expecting to find a strange car parked at the cottage. With a hand on the phone she prepared to call Poppy, who would call Willie Jake, the police chief, who would race around the lake in his all-terrain vehicle and arrest the intruder for trespassing. But trespassing was a minor offense, which meant that the offender would be free within hours and on the phone announcing Lily's whereabouts to all, which would bring a swarm of press people to Lake Henry, which was the last thing Lily wanted. Of course, John Kipling might already have made those calls. But there were no cars by the cottage. She looked around carefully. She even turned the car and parked it heading out, all the better for a speedy getaway. Then she climbed out and, watchful of the surrounding woods now, ran to the door. There was no one around. She went from window to window, peering out, then made the rounds again, this time opening each window to allow for the mild midday air to enter. When she was certain that no one lurked on land, she opened the door to the lake. There was one boat in sight-a classic thing that looked like one from Marlon Dewey's prized coMection-but it was distant and growing more so by the minute. No threat there. And no sign of John Kipling. Everything in sight was crystal clear and serene. Breathing it in, she let herself relax, and once she'd done that, exhaustion hit. Within minutes she was asleep on the big iron bed.

€ H APT E R 8 I"!: ^^£ While Lily slept, John was busy, as much for his own peace of rP* mind as for anything else. He never felt good when he left Gus. There was always frustration, always remorse, always guilt. It was worse than usual today, because Gus was clearly declining, and John knew he shouldn't have walked off that way. But along with all else he felt for his father, there was anger. Gus had kept him at arm's length throughout his childhood, then had sent him away. Sure, John might well have ended up like his brother if he'd stayed. Still, the hurt from that early banishment stung-not that there was anything John could do about it now. It was ancient history. But keeping busy kept his mind off the ongoing ache. Intent on picking up gossip for Lake News, he returned from the Ridge through the center of town, pulled in at the plant and shrub sale, and mingled with the townsfolk. There was talk about the play that the Lake Henry Players had chosen for their winter drama, talk about the sale of two poems that the town librarian had made to Yankee magazine, and from the same librarian, talk of the litter of six kittens that the library's cat had just given birth to behind the biography shelves. Approaching a large wood cart filled with pumpkins, John caught talk of the season's bumper crop, but he had little time to make notes on that or any of the rest before people turned the questions on him. "Paper says she's hiring that lawyer," remarked Alf Buzzell. He was the director of that winter drama, a sixty-year resident of Lake Henry and treasurer of the Historical Society. "Think there'll be a big TV trial?" "Beats me," John said. I

Barbara Delinsky ii8 | "Don't knows I'd like that," the man remarked, leaving John to wonder ! whether it was the focus on the town that he would mind or its competi! tion with the Lake Henry Players. "How'd they find out about the stutter?" asked the librarian. Leila Higgins was in her thirties. She had been a year ahead of Lily in school, a bookworm even back then. Though married now, she made no secret of having been a teenage wallflower. When she talked about those years, there was a bruised look in her eyes, just as there was as she asked about Lily. "They must have seen medical records," John answered. "But how? Who would have let the public see those?" John didn't know for sure. He planned to look into it. "There was probably mention of the stutter in the court file." "But who would have let the public see those?" Leila insisted. It was another thing John planned to look into. From the owner of the pumpkin cart came, "I keep wondering if she'll come here." Like the others, he felt no need to qualify the "she." There was only one "she" the townsfolk were talking about. John didn't pretend not to follow. But since there wasn't a question, there was no need of an answer. Grateful to be spared evasiveness, John ran his hand over a rounded pumpkin. "This is a beauty," he said, taking an appreciative breath. Between the smells of sweet junipers, rich loam, and ripe pumpkin, fall was *•**» ** definitely in the air. It was worth lingering over, and he would do that, but not just now. Tucking his notebook into the breast pocket of his flannel shirt, he crossed the parking lot to the general store, because he knew that Charlie would be breaking for lunch. Charlie Owens was a contemporary of his. He had grown up in a wellheeled lake family but had been John's friend through school, which was to say that Charlie had been a bad boy, too. Their favorite place had been No Man's Island, smack in the center of the lake. At twelve they had paddled there to smoke pot; at thirteen they had gotten drunk there; at fourteen they had lost their virginity there, one right after the othei, to a very willing, very buxom girl two years older. Charlie had returned to the fold straight from college, thanks ta the dual incentive of a stagnant family business and the love of a woman

LAKE NEWS 11 9 with the ideas, energy, and style to revive it. He served as the front man at the general store, the one who knew how to communicate with Lake Henryites, but Annette was the one responsible for bringing the store toward the new millennium. She overhauled the grocery department, introducing a deli and a bakery, updated the home supplies department, and established a crafts department that brought browsers. She also was the brains behind the café, a bright, glass-enclosed room at the far end of the store. John headed there now. When he crossed in front of the kitchen passthrough, he ducked his head and winked at Annette, who was back there ladling up something that smelled like a wonderfully fresh fish chowder. In the café, he slid into his favorite window booth, a spot that looked out at a stand of white birches. With the sun noon high, the curling bark was whiter and the fall leaves more yellow than ever. He wasn't there for long before Charlie set down a tray with, yes, fish chowder, plus Western club sandwiches and coffee, all for two. After he emptied the tray, he slid in across from John and grinned. "Thought you'd never get here." John reached for the coffee. The taste brought immediate relief from the lingering aftertaste of beer. "Long morning?" he asked, holding the cup for its warmth. "Busy is all," Charlie said, but he didn't look any worse for the wear. His thinning hair had gone white, and he already had Charlie Senior's crow's-feet, but there was an ease in his eyes and his smile that attested to something working well in his life. His wife adored him, as did their five kids, three of whom worked at the store. John might tease Charlie about the kids giving him that white hair, but John did envy him the fullness of his life. "I won't ask what they're talking about out there," Charlie mused, gesturing around the café with his spoon. "They're talking about it in here, too. Town's obsessed with it." "What do you remember about her?" Charlie ate a big piece offish from his chowder. That was all the time it took for him to decide. "The voice. She was singing in church by the time she was seven. Outside of church, she was invisible. A quiet thing." "She stuttered," John reminded him. That would explain the quietness. it

Barbara Delinsky 120 "Not when she sang. She used to sing Sundays at church, and from the time she was ten or eleven, Thursdays here. I was away when that started, but to hear my dad tell it, she kept the place packed. They used the big room in back for live music even then, though it wasn't much more'n walls of barn board, with benches round a potbelly stove and a raised platform at one end." "Did she sing every week?" "Near to," Charlie said and took another mouthful of chowder. He had barely swallowed when he pointed the spoon at John's bowl. "Eat. My kids caught the fish-white perch and bass from the lake." He opened a bag of oyster crackers and dumped them in. John ate. The chowder was light and buttery, not too thick, just savory enough. Charlie said, "But there were fights aplenty about Lily singing here. George liked it, Maida didn't. Far as she was concerned, if singing in church was a sure road to salvation, singing here was a sure road to hell." "Then why did she allow it?" "George insisted. So did Lily's speech therapist. They both said she needed something to feel good about." John was trying to picture it. "A singing ten-year-old is precocious and adorable. What about a fourteenor fifteen-year old? Was she provocative?" "Omigod, no. Maida wouldn't let it go that far. No matter the weather, no matter her age, the girl was buttoned from throat to ankle." "That can be provocative," John pointed out. He was trying to imagine Donny's interest. Charlie worked at his chowder for a minute. Then he set down the spoon. "Well, Lily wasn't. She'd just stand there and sing, no swaying, no come-hither looks, just the gentlest, most unpretentious smile at the end. She'd close her eyes singing love words, like she was either in dreamland or in dire fear that her mother would show up any minute and whisk her off the stage. Only, Maida didn't. On principle alone, she wouldn't go listen. She didn't come to the store for months after Lily left for New York. Far as she was concerned, we were the ones who corrupted the girl." "Not Donny?" John asked.

LAKE NEWS Charlie wiped his mouth with a paper napkin. "That was a nothing case. So's this. You think she had an affair with the Cardinal?" "No." "Right. Anyone who knew Lily knew she wasn't capable of doing much bad. Your brother-he was another story. Not," Charlie added, arching a brow, "that I told that to the fellow stopped in here this morning." John felt a twinge. "What fellow?" Charlie took a business card from his pocket and passed it over. "Said he was a TV pro-du-sah from New Yawk. Y'ask me, he looked too young." According to the card, the man was with Dateline NBC. "They're young," John acknowledged. "Shows like this have half a dozen producers. A lot of what they do is dirty work, like scoping out Lake Henry and trying to decide whether to run something or not." "I told him not," Charlie said without a trace of an accent now. "I said there wasn't any story here, and that even if there was, he wouldn't get it from us." But John knew how the media worked. There had been strangers at the plant sale just now. Everyone assumed that flatlanders passing through town on a Saturday would stop, particularly during foliage season. In the absence of a camera, there was no instant way of differentiating a leaf peeper from a reporter. "What did he look like?" "Us," Charlie remarked, but added a knowing "I rang the 'listen up' bell and announced to everyone here who he was, so he wouldn't have to introduce himself. Then I walked him over to the plant sale and introduced him to everyone there, so folks'd know we had someone from Dateline NBC in town. Then I shook his hand, wished him luck, and left him on his own." John knew why he liked Charlie. "That was good of you." "I thought so," Charlie said. Lifting his soup mug, he downed what was left of his chowder in a single long glug. Then he set the mug down and sat back with a satisfied smile. John didn't know why Charlie wasn't twice the size he was. Before John could finish what was in front of him, Charlie had downed seconds of

Mw»>«* Barbara Delinsky 122 chowder and an order of long, skinny French fries that he brought to the table with the chowder refill. Happy as a lark, he went back to work in the store, leaving John feeling stuffed. Needing to move now to wear off what he'd eaten, John walked back through the milling crowd. He kept an eye out for strangers who might be media, warned people he saw that they might be around, even walked right up and listened in to ongoing conversations between unfamiliar faces and locals that might have been interviews. But he heard nothing untoward. So he walked across the lot to the police station to talk with the chief, who just happened to be sitting on the front porch bench, watching the goings-on with a leg up on the rail and a toothpick sticking out of his mouth. Willie Jake was nearly seventy. He had been police chief for twenty-five years, and second in command for another twenty before that. No one complained that he had slowed down. Few even saw it. John was one who did, but only because he had been gone from town long enough to see the difference-and maybe because the demands of the police chief's job were so different in Boston. Willie Jake always had been tall. He couldn't run far now, and he was jowly as he hadn't been when John was truant, but he still walked straight and with authority, still wore his uniform crisp enough to make an impression. What he had lost over the years in physical speed he made up for in mental agility. "See anything interesting?" John asked. "Some," the chief said in a low voice and shifted the toothpick to the other side. He didn't take his eyes from the crowd. "There's a few nonames mixing in out there. I'm making a picture of them in my mind. They show up elsewhere in town, I'll remembuh." John didn't doubt it for a minute. Willie Jake adjusted his foot on the railing. "Think she was involved with the Cahdnal?" "No." The chief spared him a quick glance. "Why not?" "I used to know the guy who broke the case. He makes things up. What about you?" John asked, because he had his own agenda. "Do you think she was involved with the Cardinal?"

LAKE NEWS i 23 Willie Jake was chewing on his toothpick, looking out at the town again. The toothpick went to the side. "Hahd to say. Hahd to know the woman she's become since she left." "Do you remember the business with my brother?" Another glance his way, this one sharper. "I put the case togethah." "Donny told me she wasn't at fault. Deathbed confession." "He wasn't sayin' that at the time it happened. We had a good case. She was braggin' to a friend about goin' with Donny Kipling." "Bragging?" "Well, telling, and when they were drivin' around in that cah, she looked to be havin' a grand old time. She coulda got up 'n left if she didn't like what he was doing, but she didn't say boo." "She hadn't ever done anything wrong before that." "Dud'n mean a thing," said Willie Jake. "She was ripe to act up." "Why?" "Maida." "What about Maida?" "She was a stiff one. Kids rebel against stiff ones." "But George was around, and he wasn't stiff. Didn't Lily have a good relationship with him?" George Blake was in John's files as fourthgeneration Lake Henry. From what John had gathered in interviews, he was a gentle man. "Did'n' matter what kind of relationship Lily had with him. Maida was in charge of the kids." "You don't like Maida, do you?" Willie Jake shrugged. "I like her just fine now. Did'n' like her much then. Not many in town did. She wasn't bad right aftuh she married George. Then she got uppity. Don't think she liked us much either." He darted John a look. "Didn't tell that to the reporter from Rhode Island who came by this morning, though. Didn' tell him a thing. I don't like outsiders snooping around my town. Told him that. Told him I'd be watchm him. Told him I'd take him in if he goes anywhere he's not s'posed to go. This town's got posted land. Signs say no huntin', no fishin', no trespassin'. I add no badgerin. I won't have flatlanduhs tryin' to get good people to talk about their neighbuhs. We talk about each othuh, and that's fine, but we don't tell stranguhs what we learn. Don't know 'II

Barbara Delinsky 124 what's wrong with you guys. Think you can write whatever you want. You decide what's news and what isn't. Dud'n' matter if it's true." "Hey," John said with a hand to his chest, "I'm not the bad guy here. If I were you, I'd be trying to find out who leaked the business about the • arrest." : Willie Jake scowled. He yanked the toothpick from his mouth. "Emma did it." Emma was his wife. She often answered the office phone. "Said someone called from the State House in Concahd tryin to straighten out files. I called the State House. They didn't call us. They | wasn't straightenin' out any files, but they did get a call on Lily Blake. The clerk who took it was a young thing who bought the line about the calluh bein' a shrink needin' background infuhmation on his patient. Guess is good it was press doin' this." Guess is good it was Terry Sullivan, John thought. Willie Jake took his foot down and sat straighter, suddenly looking at John as he had in the old days, as if John were a worm covered with dirt. "Why do you do things like that?" John held up both hands. "Hey, /didn't do it." The chief pushed himself off the bench. "Well, it's wrong. Somethin's •wrong in this country. People don't know about respect. Take yuh small town like Lake Henry. Ain't no privacy he-uh. We all know what we're all doin', but we don't use it against each othuh. Out they-uh?" He shot a thumb toward the rest of the world. "No respect." He aimed his finger at ***"* & John. "I'm tellin' you, leave it be. It dud'n' mattuh if Lily was innocent or guilty back then. It dud'n' mattuh if Maida was too tight. That's Blake business, and no one else's." But it sure would make for interesting reading, John thought as he shook the chief's hand and walked off.

CHAPTER 9 !"b .X^= Lily slept until four in the afternoon. She awoke famished and '^ made an omelet and a salad, which she ate on the porch looking out on the lake. She might not trust John Kipling, but she was surely grateful for his food. Fresh things were better than canned any day, and everything he had brought was Lake Henry fresh. Eggs from the Kreugers' poultry farm; salad fixings from the Strothermans' produce farm; milk from cows two miles up the road, pasteurized, homogenized, bottled, and on sale at Charlie's within hours-there was reason why everything tasted so good. Not that the air didn't play a part. The scent of fall was a fine seasoning. She ate every bite, sating her hunger, but not her mind. She kept thinking about John having ammo and wondering what he meant by that. There was no sign of his boat on the lake, which brought her some relief. A second visit would be a dead giveaway that she was here. So, did Maida know she had come? Suspect it? At the very least, wonder? Lily debated calling, decided not to. Again debated calling, again decided not to. Phone in hand, she went down to the lake, tucked herself in a pine root cubby, sat very still amid the smell of rich earth, and debated some more. In the time she was there, only two boats moved on the lake, but they were far out and headed away. The only movement in the cove came from a pair of ducks swimming in and out along the shore, and the scurry of chipmunks through brush. The sun fell steadily toward the western hills, silhouetting the everI

Barbara Delinsky 126 greens that undulated along their crests, spilling shadow down the hillside, and still she sat. The earth retained more heat than she did, keeping her warm when the air began to cool. In twilight she heard the hum of a distant boat, fragments of voices from down the shore, the call of a loon. She had no sooner located the bird in a purple reflection off Elbow Island when the call came again. It was a long, steady sound with a dip at the end that gave it a primitive air. She had fallen asleep many a night to that sound, both here and across the lake, because the loon's cry carried far. As a child sleeping over with Celia, she had been fascinated by the idea that her mother could hear the very same cry she did. Lily wondered if Maida heard it now. She wondered if maybe Maida was sitting out on the front porch of the large stone farmhouse on the hill thinking of Lily sitting down here. From the house Maida wouldn't be able to see if lights were on in the cottage. Elbow Island was in the way, and behind it, as Lily looked now, Big Island. In daylight Lily could see the crown of apple trees climbing the hills. Their leaves were a softer green in summer than that of evergreen or hardwood, and they were khaki rather than fiery in fall, but impressive nonetheless. Acre after acre, several hundred in all, flowed in waves over the hillside. They were beautifully kept and smartly worked. Even the ancient cider house, with sun glinting off its tin-paneled roof and history reeking from its hardy stone sides, was a sight to see. Maida still talked about the very first time she had viewed her Tiusband's inheritance. She had been twenty at the time, and as awed by the land as by the man. Up until that meeting she had been a clerk at the local logging company, coming home to her mother's cramped apartment in a town where even the smallest pleasures were few and far between. A chance meeting when George Blake had come to buy old equipment from her boss had been her ticket to grace. Fifteen years her senior, he was the sole heir to his father's land. He offered her a home that was not only breathtakingly beautiful but large, spacious, even idyllic. How not to find pleasure in that? Marrying him had been the simplest choice of her life. So the story went, as Lily the child had heard it-a fairy tale, and it went beyond the marriage itself. Maida had been in heaven that first year. She loved not working, loved spending fall days sampling cider and baking the best of her husband's apples into pies that were the very best j

LAKE NEWS 127 ones at church sales. That first winter, she had loved reading by the fire or skating on the lake, often with George, who had little to do between the last of the cider making in December and the first of the tree pruning in March. She loved the spring orchards, when apple blossoms were a riot of white and the buzz of pollinating bees filled the air. She loved sitting on the front porch in a welcome sun, looking down over the expanse of lawn open to the lake. Come May, when the ground was warm, she nursed iris and lily, morning glory, hyacinth, and roses, tending them daily, weeding, watering, and pampering them until her garden was the best one in town. The best garden, the best apple pie, the best children. Lily had learned at a tender age that those things mattered to Maida. She could still see the smile on her face in describing the bounty of that first year. With the Garden Club her entrée to the world of prosperous women, Maida made friends among the elite. She invited them to the big stone farmhouse to see her flower arrangements, and served them dinner while they were there. She went right down the list of everyone who was anyone in Lake Henry, from the owners of the mill to the town meeting moderator to the local representative at the state legislature. She was in her glory. Then the second year began, and something went wrong. What it was, Lily never knew for sure, since Maida always stopped her story at that point. She did know that heavy spring rains took a toË on the apple crop that year, which made for fiscal strain. That was also the year that Maida was pregnant with her. So which was it that turned things sour for Maida-money worries, or pregnancy? By the time Lily was old enough to be curious, Maida was short-tempered enough with Lily for her not to risk worse, and by the time Lily had the courage to risk worse, she feared the answer too much. She still did, sitting there tucked into the cubby of roots, but now there was something new to fear. John was right. It was only a matter of time before someone else on the lake saw signs of life at Celia's. Then word would spread that Lily was back, and Maida would know. Lily didn't want her learning it from someone else. She would be badly hurt-and that wouldn't help Lily's cause in the least. Nor would it help Poppy, who was sure to be questioned and take at least some of the heat. Fast, before she chickened out, Lily returned to the house, cleaned up,

Barbara Delinsky 128 changed clothes, and drove the borrowed wagon out around the lake. It was night now. Moonbeams slanted through the trees from time to time, but her headlights were otherwise alone on the road. Her heart began to race when she neared the stone wall that marked the Blake Orchards entrance. Slowing the car, she carefully turned in and started up the gravel road that cut between acres of stubby apple trees. After half a mile, the land opened and the house loomed in the dark. Only one side of the first floor was lit, but Lily knew every inch of the place by heart. Her imagination filled in two stories, a fieldstone front, shingled overhangs, and eaved windows. Pulling in under the porte cochere, she climbed the stone steps, opened the screen door, and slipped into the large front hall. Quiet classical music came from the direction of the library, a sure sign that Maida was there. Taking a steadying breath, Lily raised her eyes up the winding staircase, past oil paintings of flowers, to the mahogany-railed balcony. The stair runner looked more worn than she remembered it being the Easter before, but the elegance of the hall was impressive nonetheless. On her left was the large dining room, shadowy with its Chippendale table and chairs. Turning in the opposite direction, she entered the living room. A single lamp was lit there, casting a glow on elegantly upholstered sofas and chairs, mahogany tables, an Oriental carpet. Maida had good taste. Lily couldn't fault her on that. If some in Lake Henry felt that Maida had decorated the stone farmhouse with more elegance than was appropriate, Lily had to admit she had done it well. When her eye fell on the baby grand in the corner, she felt an ache. She missed her piano in Boston, and it had nowhere near the memories of this one. Lily had learned to play here. She had felt strong and competent sitting at those ivory keys on that claw-footed bench. She had discovered her voice here. "I thought I heard a car," Maida said in a quiet voice. Lily's eyes flew to the far end of the room. Her mother was backlit in the library doorway, hands at her sides, shoulders straight. Not knowing what to say, Lily remained mute. "I figured you'd be back," Maida went on. "Poppy was evasive when I asked." "Poppy didn't know mm-my plans," Lily said, hating even that small

LAKE NEWS hesitation, but Maida distracted her. Time hadn't changed that, nor did the current situation help it. But what Lily had feared most was anger, and she didn't hear it or see it. In further defense of Poppy, she said, "I couldn't tell her on the phone. I didn't trust the lines. Someone was tapping into my calls." "Who would do that? Did you report it? Isn't it illegal to listen in on someone's line without their knowing? Maybe it was the police who did it. Is there a reason why they would?" Lily shook her head. She folded her arms on her chest and tried to think of something to say, but all she could think was that Maida looked remarkably good. At thirty, she had looked her age. At forty she had looked her age. Now, at fifty-seven, after she had lost her husband three years before and taken over the family business, something seemed to be working for her. She actually looked younger. She was slim and stood as tall as her five-five height allowed. Her hair was dark, short, and stylishly cut. She wore jeans and a sweater much like Lily's. , •.? .-n Lily hadn't often seen her in jeans. "You look good, Mom." Maida grunted and withdrew into the library. Lily watched her settle into her chair, retrieve her reading glasses, and turn to the computer on the side of the desk. She was shutting Lily out, typical when she couldn't deal. Lily debated leaving. In the past, that had been her only recourse. Then, though, she'd had things to do and places to go. She had neither now. What she did have was a need to talk with her mother. Slowly she walked the length of the living room and stood in the doorway that Maida had just left. The library was filled with maple bookshelves, in turn filled with leather-bound classics, nondescript aged volumes, and more contemporary books brightly packaged. It was all part of Maida's fairy tale. She saw an air of aristocracy in it. The books were taken down and dusted each spring, but Lily knew that few had actually been opened and read. It was a library for show. The desk was another matter. Lily remembered her father working there many a night. He was a stocky man, more comfortable wearing overalls and picking apples than shuffling papers, but shuffle them he did, determined to keep his family's business in the black. The computer had come only after his death. Lily was impressed at the time. She hadn't taken

Barbara Delinsky ijo Maida for a computer person. But then, she hadn't taken her to be heading the business, either, and she wasn't alone. Everyone had assumed that the good-natured, easygoing, hale and hardy George would live forever. Now Maida clicked her mouse, studied the screen, riffled the papers at her right hand until she found what she wanted, typed something in. "Bills," she murmured, sounding resigned. "I'm getting good at juggling, paying a little here, a little there. I thought things'd be better with the season being good and production up, but greater production puts strain on equipment. The press needs parts, the piping, the refrigeration units-they're all showing their age at the same time. So there's that, then there's the backhoe, bucking and starting, not much different from an old ornery horse." She sat back and leveled an accusing stare at Lily. "Your father left me with a mess that keeps me busy dawn to dusk, and then there's the telephone. Calls are pouring in from people wanting to know about you-people from town, people from other towns, people from cities where I've never been nor care to be. I don't need those calls, Lily. Especially not at harvest time." "I'm sorry," was all Lily could say. "Poppy takes most of them, but a few sneak by. Do you know what they ask? Do you know what they know? Where you shop, what you buy-did you tell them all that?" Lily had barely shaken her head when Maida said, "The business about the stutter, the business about that no-good Donald Kipling-do you know how embarrassing this is for me?" Lily hugged her middle. She felt a stab of anger, but it was quickly tempered by common sense. If Maida had to vent, it was just as well she do it now and get it done. "Do you?" Maida prodded. "It's worse for me." "WelUH," her mother said with a dry laugh, "that's what you get when you play with fire. You wanted to be onstage. You wanted to be an entertainer. But scandal comes with that kind of life. People see you onstage, and suddenly you're a public person. You're fair game for gossipmongers. I read People magazine. This one's having an affair, that one's having an affair. If you're in that world, people assume that your morals are loose-and you fed right into them, Lily. What was in your mind? Late-night tête-à-

LAKE NEWS 13 I têtes with the Cardinal, hugs and kisses-didn't it occur to you that people might get the wrong idea? At least, I assume it's the wrong idea." Her voice stopped, but not her eyes. They were direct, demanding an answer. Surprised and decidedly pleased to be given the benefit of the doubt, Lily said quickly, "It's the wrong idea. Nothing happened. Father Fran is a good friend. He has been for years. You know that." "I didn't know you were running in and out of his residence at will." "Not at will. Never at wiU." "And why did you say those things? Why did you say you loved him?" "Because I do. He's a close friend. That's what I told the reporter. He took my words out of context. He did it over and over again. Mom, I didn't ask for this." "Then why did it happen?" "Because some reporter, some newspaper wanted to sell papers," Lily cried. "The media needed a scandal, one reporter created one, and the others jumped in. If there had been a high-profile mm-murder somewhere else, they wouldn't have dreamed up this, but things were quiet, and then Fff-ather Fran was named Cardinal, and someone's imagination went to work." "You set yourself up for it," Maida declared. "You let it happen." Lily was astonished. "What could I do?\ denied every allegation. I demanded a retraction. I talked with a lawyer." "And?" "What?" "The lawyer. What's he doing?" "I couldn't hire the lawyer." "Why not?" "He wanted a quarter of a million dollars." That silenced Maida. Her eyes went to the computer screen, then to her papers. Her mouth flattened, corners turned down. Lily was about to say that she wouldn't take the money from Maida even if she had it, when she heard a noise behind her. She turned to see Rose's oldest child, Lily's ten-year-old niece, Hannah, coming toward her on bare feet. A huge T-shirt hid her chubbiness. Long brown hair, more out of a ponytail than in it, framed a round and serious face. 4 J.»'"'

Barbara Delinsky 132 Lily didn't know her nieces weË, but Hannah had been the firstborn of them and held a special place in her heart. She broke into a smile. "Hi, Hannah!" Hannah stopped just out of arm's reach. "Hi, Aunt Lily." Lily closed the distance and gave her a hug. The one she got back felt hesitant, but it was better than nothing. "How are you?" she said, keeping an arm around the girl. "Fine. When'd you get back?" "Late last night. I slept most of today. What re you doing here so late?" "She's sleeping over," Maida said in a businesslike voice. "What happened to the movie, Hannah?" "It was boring." "I thought we rented two." Lily felt a shrug under her hand. Hannah said, "I heard voices." "Your aunt and I have to talk. Go on back up and watch the other one." Hannah shot Lily a quick look before pulling away. "Don't forget to rewind the first," Maida called after her. Lily watched her until she had disappeared into the hall. Then she turned back to Maida. "Does she sleep over often?" "Saturday nights, when Rose and Art want to go out." "Where are Emma and Ruth?" They were Hannah's younger sisters, ages seven and six respectively, certainly too young to stay alone. "A baby-sitter. It's easier for the sitter if Hannah is here." In a lower voice, she asked, "Why did the newspaper imply that you were hiring that lawyer?" Fearing Hannah could hear what they said, Lily spoke more softly, too. "The lawyer was the one who implied it. But it wasn't only the money that bothered me. He said a lawsuit would take years, and that they'd pick at my life even more than they already have." .v; Maida sat back and pressed laced fingers to her lips. Lily said, "I can't live through this for three years." Maida dropped her hands. "Is there an alternative?" "The story is a lie. Everyone will know it once the Cardinal gets a retraction." "And you'll get your teaching job back?" Maida asked. "I think not. Smears linger even after the facts come clear. You put yourself in a vul-

LAKE NEWS *33 nerable position. A single woman, having a close friendship with the Cardinal?" Lily felt accused by the one person whose mistrust hurt the most. She lashed back with more force than she had dared once to show to Maida, but she was an adult now, and Maida was wrong. "It wasn't that close. I never visited him just for the heck of it. We used to talk at parties, but there were always other people around. Sometimes I stayed, playing the piano after events at the residence, and there were times when he'd call on the phone to see how I was, if a month or two had gone by and we hadn't bumped into each other. That's no different from what I did with other friends." "He's a priest." "He's a friend." "People don't touch priests." "Everyone touches Fran Rossetti." "And there-there-such a show of disrespect, calling him by his first name." "All his friends call him Fran. He tells us to. I would never do it in public." Maida took another tack. "If you'd been married this wouldn't have happened. I've been after you to marry for years, and I was right. A husband would give you stability. Same with children. If you'd listened to me and done that, you'd have looked more settled." "And that would have made a difference?" Lily shot back. "If one story is based on lies, another would be, too. Terry Sullivan wanted a scandal. He'd have made it happen even if I was married; only then they'd have called me an adulteress or an unfit mother." "When did you become so jaded?" Maida had the gall to chide. Poppy had done much the same, but more as an observation. Maida was being critical, and Lily grew livid. "When someone else's lies tore my whole life apart!" "You should have been married," Maida insisted, but the flatness in her voice said she was done with the argument. "I take it you're staying at Mother's?" Lily didn't bother to say that the cottage was legally hers. Tired, she simply nodded. ۥ

Barbara Delinsky 13 4 "For how long?" '• ' •••; •..•"• • . /; "> \f,,i"«"'

C H APT E R 10 JCl1"|}/^j Lily spent much of Sunday detesting the helplessness she felt. 1^^ She reconsidered taking legal action, even envisioned a triumphant scene outside a courtroom after a jury had ruled in her favor. The vision included total vindication, with the kind of megasettlement that would make the media think twice before again recklessly ruining people's lives. She pictured a victorious return to Boston that included the Winchester School headmaster being fired for caving in to the media frenzy and the owner of the Essex Club begging, just begging her to return to work. She imagined Terry Sullivan losing his job, Paul Rizzo crashing his motorcycle, and Justin Barr being run out of town. Inevitably, reality returned the minute she thought of the emotional price of taking the case to court. Things would get worse before they got better. She wasn't ready to sign on for that. What else to do? Saturday morning, John had said he had ammo. He hadn't mentioned it again on Sunday, but she may have hung up too soon. She wondered what his ammo was, whether she could trust him to share it, whether he would turn right around and use her the way Terry Sullivan had. Issues of trust notwithstanding, she knew that John saw the papers each morning. In the absence of television and radio at the cottage, fearful of calling Boston and risking having the call traced to Poppy's number, and loath to call Maida, she bit the bullet and phoned John again first thing Monday morning.

LAKE NEWS 13 9 "You're my link to the outside world," she said in an attempt at levity. "What's out there today?" "Nothing on the front page," John replied. "The story is on page five. The Vatican cleared the Cardinal of suspicion and condemned the irresponsibility of the paper. The Post countered by issuing an apology to the Cardinal." Hope came so quickly that Lily could hardly breathe. "They admitted the story was wrong?" "No. But they apologized to the Cardinal." His statement hung in the air. "Yes?" Lily asked. There had to be more. "That's it. It was a small piece." Her hopes wavered. "Was I mentioned?" "Only at the very beginning." Uneasy now, she swallowed. "Would you read it to mm-me, please?" In a level voice, John read: " 'After conducting its own inquiry, the Vatican has announced that newly named Cardinal Francis Rossetti has been cleared of all allegations that he had an improper relationship with nightclub singer Lily Blake. The Vatican inquiry involved extensive interviews with personnel closest to the Cardinal, as well as with the Cardinal himself. A statement issued from Rome last night cited a "total absence of evidence to suggest that any of the allegations made in the past week contain even an iota of truth."The statement went on to condemn the atmosphere of "carnival journalism" that exists in this country today and that threatens "irreparable harm even to men of the impeccable character of Cardinal Rossetti." ' " Lily held her breath, waiting. "More?" John asked. "Please." " A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Boston praised the speed and thoroughness of the Vatican investigation. "This timely action clears the way for Cardinal Rossetti to immediately resume his work with the poor, the troubled, and the needy of the archdiocese," he said.' " John paused. Lily waited. " 'When reached by the Post, ' " he read on, " 'the Cardinal reiterated

IF Barbara Delinsky 140 that thought. "There is precious work to be done," he said. "It would have be unfortunate for that work to suffer because of spurious charges and irresponsible reporting."'" :-.. , , .-,-.. Again John paused. •< "Is that it?" Lily asked. "One more sentence. 'The Post has issued a formal apology to the Cardinal and to the archdiocese.' " Lily waited for him to tack on a final phrase. When the silence dragged on, her dismay grew. "That's all?" "Yes." . â "No apology to me?" . "No." She was dumbfounded, then irate. "But I'm the one who's suffered most. I'm the one who's out of work. I'm the one whh-who who can't walk around in public without being followed like a cat in heat. I deserve an apology, too. What about exonerating mmm-me?" Her jaw was clenched, her heart pounding. She was as angry as she had ever been. "Who wrote that piece?" "Not Terry," John answered. "David Hendricks. He's a longtime staff reporter." "Terry Sullivan is a coward," Lily seethed. "What about the other papers?" "Same thing. Small piece. That's it." * "Will this be the end?" "Possibly." Through her fury, Lily managed only a quick "Thank you" before disconnecting the call. Then she called Poppy and asked to be put through to Cassie Byrnes. Like many of its neighbors, Lake Henry had a town-meeting form of government. For two nights every March, the church was filled with residents gathered to vote on issues pertinent to town life in the coming year. Every other year, a moderator was elected. He determined the meeting's agenda and should have been the most powerful person in town. It wasn't so in Lake Henry, where town meeting was more a social experience easing the monotony of mud season than a policy-making body.

LAKE NEWS 141 In reality, as they arose, the everyday details of town life were handled by the police chief, the postmaster, and the town clerk. The more weighty matters at millennium's end, though, had to do with ecological interests. These were handled by the Lake Henry Committee. The committee had first formed in the 19205, when the growing influx of summer residents made the year-rounders edgy. Committee members focused on preserving the beauty of the lake and its land. Over the years, as ecological interests gained prominence, the committee's power grew. It had no size limit. Anyone could belong. The only qualification was that attendance at monthly meetings was mandatory. When an emergency meeting was called, usually in reaction to a move by the state legislature that locals considered intrusive to their rights, members were expected to attend unless they had good reason not to. At any given time there were thirty members, give or take. Each January they celebrated the new year by electing a leader from their ranks. Cassie Byrnes was in her fourth year as chairman of the Lake Henry Committee. She was the first woman to hold that position and, thirtyfive now, still the youngest person ever, but her selection had been unanimous. A lifelong resident of Lake Henry, she had left town only to attend college and law school. The ink was barely dry on her degree when she returned to town to hang out a shingle. In the ten years since, she had become something of a local activist. Lily waited for her on the porch. The lake was foggy today, but peaceful. It helped keep her nervousness in check. When she heard the sound of a motor, she walked around to the front of the cottage. She was waiting there when Cassie pulled up in a compact car that was every bit as worn as the old borrowed wagon. Crammed into the back along with what looked to be heavy jackets, a hockey stick, and a fast food bag were two child seats. Cassie was a working mother, but the only frazzle about her was her curly blond hair. Slipping the strap of a leather pouch on her shoulder as she climbed from the car, she looked fully composed. Her long legs were encased in jeans, her slender upper half in white silk. She wore a blazer, a flowered scarf, and boots. "Thanks for coming," Lily said. Cassie smiled. "We were wondering if you'd come back. Speculation is

Barbara Delinsky 142 second nature to Lake Henryites. No one knows I'm here, though. Your secret is safe with me as long as you want it kept." She extended a hand. "It's been a long time." Lily took her hand. Cassie had been a year ahead of her in school, and light-years more popular. Her handshake now was confident and firm. Lily hoped she had the legal ability to match it. They might have talked on the porch with the fog assuring confidentiality, but it was too cool and damp to stay outside long. So Lily led her into the cottage and offered her coffee. They sat in the living room, Lily in the armchair, Cassie on the sofa. "You've followed the story?" Lily began. "Oh, yes. Hard not to, what with a local involved." "Have you seen today's papers?" "I have. The Vatican cleared the Cardinal, and the Post apologized to him but not to you," Cassie said with a quickness that encouraged Lily. "It doesn't surprise me. The press has legal eagles on retainer. They tell editors what the law requires, and those editors don't go one drop beyond that. The Post issued an apology but not a retraction. It could be that unless the Cardinal demands one, it won't be offered. Or it could appear later in the week. There are statutes covering retractions, where they should be, how big. I'd have to look at the Massachusetts statutes to know how things work there." Lily didn't care about statutes. She was talking sheer common sense. «i^» 40) "But how could I not have been included in an apology? If I was half party to an alleged sexual affair, and the other half has been exonerated and given a public apology, how can I be ignored? How can charges be made on the front page, and apologies issued somewhere back inside?" "That's how it works," Cassie said on a note of disgust. Angry, Lily hung her head. She swallowed, trying to organize her thoughts. When she was ready, she looked up. "What's been done to me is morally wrong. That won't change. But laws have been broken, too. That's what I need to talk with you about." "You're not working with Maxwell Funder?" "No. He wanted the case for the publicity, and for the money." She told Cassie the figure Funder had tossed out. Cassie rolled her eyes. "No surprise there, either. He's with a fancy

LAKE NEWS 143 firm. There are people who will pay his fees. So he may be giving you a cut rate on those hourly fees, but they're still out of sight. Did he give you the spiel about out-of-pocket costs?" Lily had barely nodded when Cassie said, "Court costs aren't much in a case like this. At least, not up here." That was a new thought. "Can I use the New Hampshire courts?" Lily asked. "Why not? The papers in question are all sold here. That means you've been libeled in New Hampshire as much as in Massachusetts or New York." Lily took heart. "Libel is what it is. They've said things about me that are lies, and what they didn't say, they implied." Cassie held up a cautionary hand. "What they implied will be harder to prove." She took a pad of paper and a pen from her bag. "Let's start with what they said." "They said I was having an affair with the Cardinal. That is not true." Cassie made notes. "Okay. That's point one. What else?" "They said I was having an affair with the governor of New York." "Said, or implied?" "Implied, but strongly." Cassie rocked a hand. "That's a maybe. What other direct accusations were made?" "That I said I was having an affair with the Cardinal. That I was in love with him. That I followed him to Boston." "Didn't you say those things?" "Not the way he implied," Lily said, angry and embarrassed at the same time. "We were talking about a hypothetical woman saying she was having an affair with the Cardinal. So Terry reported it like it was me. I said I loved the Cardinal like many other people love the Cardinal. It was generic. And I did foEow him to Boston chronologically, but not for the purpose of following him there." Cassie was frowning. "Those are all maybes. You said those words. He took them out of context. He's apt to claim it was an innocent misunderstanding on his part. The case won't make it to court unless we can prove malice. Do you know him?" "No," Lily answered, frustrated now. "He had been approaching me for a piece he was doing on performers, but I kept turning him down.

Barbara Delinsky '44 The first time we did any real talking was at the club the night before he broke the story. He led me into those statements, Cassie. But then there's the rest of what they printed." She raced on, because it was all so wrong, so infuriating, so humiliating. "I didn't tell them where I shop or where I go on vacation, and I didn't tell them about the incident here when I was sixteen. Those charges were dropped. The file was supposed to be sealed." Cassie had been rapping her upper lip with her knuckles while Lily talked. Now she made a note on the pad. "Someone leaked it. The AG here should investigate that. The problem with the rest-where you shop and vacation-that information is available to the public. It shouldn't be, but it is. Anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of the Internet can get it." . Lily was discouraged. "Then there's nothing I can do?" "Not on that score."